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m. 



OMEWARD 
TRAIL 



WALDRON BAinrO 



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HOMEWARD TRAIL 



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THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 






THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 



CHAPTER I 

DAVID, sitting under an apple tree, stared 
with vague eyes toward the thicket of 
dogwood that bordered on the far side of 
the orchard. Then, of a sudden, his gaze 
quickened as there came a movement of the 
foliage, and a fawn stepped daintily out 
into the open, where it stood placidly regard- 
ing the young man with limpid, friendly 
eyes. One ear stood out at a right angle 
from the head; the other was laid back, at- 
tentive to something within the thicket. 
David knew that this something must be 
Euth, with whom her fawn wandered every- 
where. He stood up expectantly. A moment 
later, tljie girl issued from the shelter, and 
at sight of the youth stopped short beside 
the fawn, which muzzled her hand in a gentle 
caress. 



2 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

For a little, the boy and the girl were silent, 
studying each other with intentness, in 
which was something partly admiration, 
partly surprise, as if they saw with a new 
clarity of vision. It was borne in on David 
with startling abruptness that his childish 
playfellow of years was a child no longer, 
was indeed a woman grown, and, too, beauti- 
ful. He noted as never before the slender 
graces of her form with its lithe erectness. 
His glances roved half -shyly over the delicate 
contours of the oval face, and he saw that 
she was very fair. He had known it before, 
but not as he knew it now in this flash of 
illumination. An unfamiliar beauty was re- 
vealed to him here and now in the red lips 
curving so tenderly, in the satiny purity of 
the complexion with its petals of rose in the 
cheeks and the trace of brown given by the 
sun, in the aureole of hair that was itself like 
sunlight, in the lucent blue eyes, which shone 
with mingled mirth and pride and affection. 

Ruth, for her part, in her contemplation 
of David recognized something unfamiliar. 
She did not quite understand its significance, 
but she felt herself half -confusedly abashed 
by its presence. She sensed dully that her 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 3 

boyish companion, as if in the twinkling of 
an eye, had become of a man's full stature. 
The thought subtly distressed her, even while 
it gratified her. So she thrust the idea out 
of her mind in order that she might greet 
him again to-day as yesterday. 

**0h, Dave I" she called. There was a 
warm note beneath the gayety that rang in 
her tones, **Just think of pappy 's trusting 
you to do all that business for him I I reckon 
he never let anybody else collect money for 
him.'' She laughed as she added: **You 
know pappy 's mighty particular about his 
money.'' 

David grinned in response. 

**Yes, there ain't no two ways about his 
being almighty close. He sure does make the 
eagle squawk plumb awful every time he 
pinches a dollar. I cal'late I'm some proud 
over his sendin' me with that load of 
apples." 

**It means you're grown up, Dave," Euth 
answered, and there was a hint of wistful- 
ness in the music of her voice. Tlfen, because 
she herself by no means imderstood the full 
significance of her words, she went forward 
quickly with the fawn at her side, ^iVhen 



4 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

she came to where the young man stood, 
she paused, and put her hands to his cheeks, 
and, as he bowed his head toward her, lifted 
her face, and put her lips to his. In the 
same second, she drew away from him, and 
her cheeks flamed as they had never flamed 
before from the kisses she had given him. 
She stood mute and motionless, with down- 
cast eyes, in a trouble half-shamed, half- 
sweet. 

David, too, stood wordless in a great con- 
fusion. The kiss had loosed in him a flood 
of emotion that thriUed and bewildered. It 
was as if consciousness were drowned in the 
tide of feeling. And as in the case of a 
drowning man the whole life passes in re- 
view during a few seconds, so now before 
the mind of David a scroll was unrolled. But 
this panorama showed only the kisses of 
Euth. They had been frank, free kisses all, 
some tender, some mischievous, always kindly. 
For, as to this young man and woman, each 
was an only child, and, since they lived on 
adjoining farms, they had always been play- 
fellows. David remembered the day of his 
first great grief, when from a field whither 
he had gone to weep alone over the mother 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 5 

who lay dying, he had seen his father come 
out of the house and pass down the road 
toward the village. A great desolation had 
fallen on him, for the man bore, according 
to local custom, the measuring stick, which 
he had cut to the length of his wife^s form, 
and which he would now carry to the carpenter 
to serve as a measure for the coflfin. So the 
boy had known that his mother was dead. 
Ruth had come to him in the misery of that 
hour, had comforted him with her kisses. 
Again, within the year, when his father went 
to fight in the Confederate cause, leaving 
the son in charge of William Swaim, Ruth's 
father, the girl had welcomed him to his 
new home with kisses, and had cheered him 
in his loneliness. When, on his return from 
a hunting trip with his father in the Blue 
Ridge Mountains, along the upper reaches 
of the Yadkin River, he brought her, accord- 
ing to a promise made, a fawn which he had 
caught, she had showered on him glad kisses 
of gratitude. There had been other kisses 
innumerable — ^joyous, teasing, tender. Here 
was one of a sort altogether different. In 
it was something disturbing, something curi- 
ously penetrating and potent. It was a 



^y. 



6 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

mystery to this boy who did not yet realize 
his manhood. 

The rough voice of Swaim broke the spell 
that held the two. 

**Drat thet-thar dumned pesky deer t* 
Tophetl Ye left the corn-crib door open, 
Dave, consam ye I An' the ornery critter 
has done et nigh a full peck o* seed com, 
an' thet seed corn's wuth money, by cripesi" 
The old man glared accusingly in turn at 
David and Euth and the fawn, which had 
slipped away to a little distance as if 
in conscious acknowledgment of its guilt. 
David, though aware that he was not at fault 
in the matter, forbore any attempt at de- 
fense, for he had no wish at this time to pro- 
voke further his penurious and irascible 
task-master. Ruth, however, boldly resented 
this flouting of her pet 

**You ought to be ashamed of yourself, 
pappy," she declared spiritedly, **to be- 
grudge a darling little thing like Mollie a 
few ears of your old com. And," she added 
impudently, *' likely you left the door open 
yourself. Dave is a sight more careful than 
you are, pappy, and you know it." 

The father drew his shaggy gray brows 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 7 

in a fierce scowl, which, the daughter bore 
Tindaimted. His voice came with a rasp. 

*'Git inter the house, Miss High-an'- 
Mighty, an' help maw with the baldn* an' 
sweepin' an' sich-like women's tricks, instid 
o' lally-gaggin' round hyar a-wastin' yer 
own time an' Dave's.'^ 

The scarlet flooded Ruth's cheeks once 
again at this direct attack, and she retreated 
in haste, the fawn following. The old farmer 
turned his frown on David, whom he re- 
garded grimly for a long time. He was a 
hard man and uncouth. He had a reputation 
for meanness throughout the community, 
and it was deserved. In his fashion, doubt- 
less, he loved both his wife and daughter, 
but they suffered none the less from his 
penuriousness. His parsimony fretted Mrs. 
Swaim more than it might have most of the 
neighboring wives, there among the foothills 
of the Blue Ridge, in North Carolina, for she 
was of better birth than her husband, and 
had even received the advantages of a course 
in the female seminary at Salem. In her 
romantic girlhood, her fancy had been caught 
by the handsome and virile mountaineer. 
She had been speedily disillusioned. Her 



8 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

single compensation was in Euth, and for 
her daughter's sake, she had held herself 
from falling into the slovenly ways and il- 
literate speech of the community. So, too, 
she had trained her child as best she knew 
how in matters of deportment and manner 
of speaking. William Swaim had no sym- 
pathy for any such ** Harnal foolishness. *' 
He demonstrated the fact now by his aspect 
as he stood glowering at the young man. 
He was barefooted, and shirt and overalls 
hung loosely on the tall, thin form. In the 
deep hollow between the outstanding neck 
muscles, the huge Adam's apple jumped 
spasmodically, as he chewed his quid of to- 
bacco, and either spat or swallowed the 
juice. The face was thin and drawn, brown 
and wrinkled. The beak-like nose hinted of 
cruelty and avarice. The sparse gray hair 
and the tangle of whitening beard were un- 
kempt and frowsy. The eyes were pale and 
watery, with reddened lids. They were blink- 
ing now as he contemplated David with a 
malevolent distrust, which found expression 
in his next words. 

** Hit's powerful resky trustin' business t* 
a harum-scarum galoot what hain't got sense 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 9 

enongh t* lock wanderin' wild beasts outen 
the corn-crib/' David opened his mouth to 
protest, but thought better of it, and per- 
mitted the slur to pass unrebuked. ** They'll 
be quite some money a-comin' fer thet-thar 
load 0* limber-twig apples. I'm puttin' 
right smart o' confidence in you-all, David, 
an' I dunno as I had orter 'a' done hit. As 
I said, it's resky — ^pizen resky." Having 
thus relieved his saturnine humor, Swaim 
became almost cheerful, and spoke alertly. 
**Time we got busy with the load, t' git hit 
done come night, so's yc kin start at sun-up 
t'-morrer.*' 

David followed obediently, even with huge 
satisfaction. For this commission given him 
by Swaim to sell the apples in Salisbury, 
though seemingly such a trifling thing, was in 
truth a matter of serious importance to those 
chiefly concerned. To the elder man, the 
sending forth of the youth was in the nature 
of a test. David's father and he had been 
friends as well as neighbors. Naturally 
enough, by reason of their mutual liking, and, 
too, by reason of the fact that their farms 
adjoined, and that each had an only child, 
they had planned a marriage between their 



10 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

children. With more discretion than parents 
in such cases usually display, they had kept 
the project secret from those most concerned. 
Swaim had much liking for the lad, which, 
however, he was at pains to conceal. His 
decision to entrust David with the sale of 
the apples would never have been reached, 
had he not felt that it was a duty he owed 
himself to try out the business ability of 
his daughter's prospective husband. So, to 
him, a bit of petty marketing carried deep 
significance. 

To David (and to Ruth as well) the matter 
was serious because it brought to the young 
man the first real responsibility in his life, 
and the fact marked his stepping across the 
threshold that separates boyhood from ma- 
turity. A trivial event truly in the judgment 
of those more sophisticated. Yet, to these 
primitive folk, the occasion marked an epoch. 
For that matter, this undertaking apparently 
so simple was destined to prove the begin- 
ning of vital episodes in the lives of David 
Simmons and Ruth Swaim. 



CHAPTER n 

BEFORE dawn the following morning, 
David had thrown the harness on the 
tassel-tails, as he called the mules, and 
hitched them to the canvas-hooded wagon 
laden with apples. A blast of the horn sum- 
moned him to the breakfast which Ruth had 
prepared and now served to him. But there 
was still constraint between the two, and 
their words were few and perfunctory. 
David seemed to give his entire attention to 
the meal before him, and thus left Ruth free 
covertly to study the clean-cut features of 
the yoxmg man, framed by the waving black 
hair. She considered for the first time, with 
a maidenly wonder that was almost awe and 
wholly admiration, the breadth of his shoul- 
ders, the depth of his chest, the slim waist 
and tapering flanks. It was only when at 
last he arose from the table with a sigh of 
repletion that David ^s black eyes met Ruth's 
in a long, intent, questioning gaze. Presently, 

11 



12 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

the girPs glance wavered and fell, and the 
color mantled her cheeks, David felt a thrill 
of exaltation, thongh he conld not in the least 
understand why. 

**I wish you luck, Dave,*' Buth said. Her 
voice was very low, faltering a little. **I'm 
sure you^U make a good job of it.*' But she 
did not offer him a kiss, nor did he ask it. 

**Do the best I can,'* he replied, and hur- 
ried out. 

Within a minute, he was seated on the 
driver's seat under the shelter of the pro- 
jecting canvas top, and, with a savage crack 
of the long-lashed mule-whip, was off. Cran- 
ing back for a last look, he saw Buth in the 
doorway, who waved her hand to him, and he 
waved in return. Then, with a great con- 
tentment in his heart, he settled himself to 
the long drive. Though David was too 
familiar with his surroundings to be deeply 
stirred by them, nevertheless the beauty of 
the scene harmonized with his mood, and 
served to emphasize it. His eyes scanned 
with pleasure the luxurious tints that the 
autumn had painted on the foliage of dog- 
wood and oak and sweet-gum. A bob-white 
called from a thicket, and David whistled a 



THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 13 

response. He listened, without any futile 
thought of imitating, to the soft and exquisite 
smging of a mocking bird hidden within the 
wood. There was no drawback to his satis- 
faction as he journeyed on. The fall rains 
had held off, so that the roads were good, 
and he made excellent progress. Other 
wagons, similarly loaded, swung into the high- 
way from cross-roads, until David found him- 
self one of a caravan moving leisurely within 
a cloud of thick, red dust. The song of birds, 
the murmur of brooks, the rustling of leaves 
beneath the light wind were overborne by a 
riot of coarser sounds— the thudding of 
mules' hoofs on the hard clay, the clanking 
of harness chains, the creaking of heavy 
wagons, the bawled oaths of drivers, the 
hisses and crackling reports of whip-lashes; 
at the fords, the noise of churned waters, the 
snorting of the beasts, the raucous laughter 
and shouted conversations of the teamsters. 
At nightfall, the train halted and made 
camp. David, after he had attended to the 
mules, fried his bacon and eggs over the 
eommon fire. Then he rolled himself in his 
blanket on the ground beneath the wagon, 
and fell asleep to the lullaby of strenuously 



14 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

Btmmmed banjos that came from the boister- 
ous group still gathered around the fire. 

The strangeness of his situation caused 
David to awake long before the first glim- 
merings of light. In his eagerness to accom- 
plish the task set him, he at once began his 
preparations for the road^ since he could see 
clearly enough by the starlight. He had fed 
the mules, and breakfasted, and started off 
before anyone else in the camp was stirring. 
So, it came about that in mid-forenoon he 
swung the mules on the easterly stretch of 
the route to Salisbury. 

It was as he came close to his destination 
that for the first time his spirit lost its buoy- 
ancy. There before him, on a tract of the 
rising ground between the town and the 
river, loomed grimly the high stockade of the 
Confederate prison. At first glimpse of it, 
David's thoughts flew to his father, who had 
been captured, and now languished in some 
place like this far to the north, under guard 
of Union soldiers. David had heard much 
oonceming the sufferings of the captives here 
in Salisbury prison, and, as he pitied them, 
he was filled with dire forebodings over the 
fate of his father. Where the road passed 



THE HOMEWARD TRAH. 15 

alongside the high stockade, the ground 
sloped sharply upward, so that from his 
perch on the wagon seat, he was above the 
level of the stockade's top, and could look 
down and behold every detail of the grue- 
some spectacle within the barrier. David 
pulled the mules to a standstill, and stared 
at the scene, fascinated and appalled. 

The acres of the inclosure were crowded 
with a tatterdemalion horde. These men were 
gaunt starvelings, the wretched, famine- 
stricken victims of war 's cruelty. They were 
clad in soiled rags of xmif orm, which flapped 
grotesquely loose on the emaciated bodies. 
Through the masks of bushy whiskers 
showed pallid features, lighted by cavernous 
eyes. Some were so weakened by privations 
that they were shivering even in the full 
warmth of the sunlight. On many, the ban- 
dages were witness of wounds still unhealed. 
Often an arm was lacking ; often a leg. 

One of those mutilated in the latter fashion 
first drew David^s particular attention, for 
the cripple stood near the stockade, looking 
up toward him. He was a young man of 
about David's age, who, under a happier 
fate, would just now have been in his prime. 



16 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

Like David, too, he was tall and straight, 
with massive shoulders and a mighty chest. 
The prisoner *s natural attributes of strength 
made more conspicuous the pathos of his 
present condition with wan, drawn face and 
haggard eyes and stooped form hunched on 
the support of the crutches. One trouser 
leg dangled empty from the knee. 

A sudden livelier gust of wind caught the 
unfastened canvas curtain on the side of 
the wagon toward the stockade. The cloth 
was Kfted and thrown back over the frame- 
work, so that the heaped apples showed 
plainly above the side of the box. At sight 
of them, the cripple's famished face lighted 
with a consuming desire. After the scant 
rations of sour corn bread which had been 
practically his only food for many a weary 
day, the ruddy richness of the fruit was tor- 
ture to his need. He cried out shrilly in a 
voice that quivered from the intensity of his 
longing. 

**Hi, mister I Can't ye spare one of your 
apples to a poor cuss, who's fust about 
starvin't" The smile that went with the 
drawling words was pitiful. 

The look in the fellow's eyes pierced David 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 17 

to the souL The thought of his father in 
desperate need like this moved him to gen- 
erous action. He reached quickly over the 
back of the seat, picked up an apple, and 
tossed it over the stockade toward the crip- 
ple's eagerly outstretched hands. 

The intended kindness was of no avail. 
Another of the prisoners, who was standing 
near at hand, had been watching greedily. 
He, like all others in that place, was ragged 
and forlorn and obviously very hungry. He 
was a short, wiry individual of mature age, 
with the chevrons of a sergeant still showing 
on his coat-sleeves. A bristling red stubble of 
beard gave him an appearance of fierceness. 
Now, as the apple flew through the air to- 
ward the cripple, he whirled and sprang with 
surprising agility. He caught the apple, and 
bit into it avidly almost before his feet 
touched the ground. Then he sauntered off, 
shamefaced, but munching voraciously. 

The cries of indignation that had broken 
from David and the cripple simultaneously 
caused the other prisoners near by to look in 
the direction of the sounds. A single glimpse 
of the apples set them hurrying toward the 
Btockade, calling out in supplication. At 




18 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

first, however, David gave no heed to these 
others. His heart was hot with wrath against 
the red-whiskered thief who had so meanly 
despoiled the cripple of his gift. Neverthe- 
less, the remedy was simple. He plucked 
another apple from the load and tossed it 
over the stockade. His hasty aim fell a little 
short The man on the cmtches lurched for- 
ward clumsily — too late. A wobegone, tot- 
tering reUc was suddenly galvanized into life, 
and pounced upon the spoil. The cripple 
rested inert, an expression of hopeless misery 
on his face. David felt a new pang of grief 
for this sufferer whom as yet he had failed 
to comfort. He was hot with wrath against 
those who had thwarted him. Then, in an- 
other second, as his ears took in the plead- 
ings of the men massing at the stockade, his 
anger died and gave place to a new and 
broader sympathy for these stricken ones. 
Yet, he was by no means unmindful of the 
first to win his interest. He was indeed more 
than ever determined to accomplish his pur- 
pose. To that end, he resorted to strategy. 
He seized a double handful of the apples, 
and tossed them to either side of the cripple. 
While the soldiers scrambled for these, he 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 19 

sent over two others so nicely directed that 
the cripple easily caught both in his cap. 
This success delighted David, and his de- 
light was made deeper by the joy that shone 
in the man's face as he looked up and smiled. 
A warm tide of benevolence welled high in 
the young mountaineer's bosom. He forgot 
that these men here before him were his ene- 
mies. He remembered only their need. Their 
piteous appeals moved him to a reckless im- 
pulse of charity. He no longer thought of the 
business entrusted to him by William Swaim. 
His sole concern was to assuage to the full 
measure of his ability the urgent necessity 
of these famished prisoners. A philan- 
thropic zeal drove him on. He clambered 
over the seat and stood among the apples, 
and threw the canvas side-flap up over the 
framework of the top. Then, without any 
hesitation, he began casting the apples over 
the stockade. The forlorn captives surged 
toward the barrier, yelling their glee over 
the precious food that rained on them like 
manna from heaven. David hurled his 
kindly projectiles from both hands, fast and 
furiously. The crowd within the yard 
swirled hither and yon, following the flight 



20 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

of the apples. They chattered and cursed 
and laughed in an abandon of fantastic hap- 
piness over this break in the horrible routine 
of their imprisonment. David exulted with 
them. 

Some boys, going a-fishing, halted by the 
wagon to stare round-eyed at the strange 
spectacle of this young man with the hand- 
some face and flashing eyes and long black 
hair flying in the wind, who was throwing 
these great, luscious apples so jrildly over 
the stockade, from behind which sounded the 
roaring acclamations of the mob. 

**Say, give us some, suhl** one of the boys 
shouted. 

David heard the treble cry, and answered 
it. 

**Come on up here, an* fill your pockets, 
an* help me throw,*' he commanded. 

On the instant, the boys swarmed about 
him, first filled their pockets, and then gave 
themselves merrily to this new sport of bom- 
barding the enemy. The many nimble hands 
made short work of discharging the caf^. 
A hail of apples filled the air. There was 
joyous rioting among the prisoners, who just 
before had been so apathetic in their wretch- 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 21 

edness. Now, they were suddenly bubbling 
over with liveliness, romping and chuckling 
and gloating — and munching. The boys 
working beside David squealed gibes at their 
foes, and strove to catch them unawares with 
apples cunningly aimed. David threw no less 
fiercely, though with no malicious intent. On 
the contrary, he was all aflame with the lust 
of giving. It was with sharp regret that he 
saw the last apple fly over the palisade. He 
gave a glance down at the empty wagon- 
box, and sighed. He made a gesture of dis- 
missal to the boys. As they clambered down 
from the wagon, David faced the mass of 
prisoners witliin the enclosure. He swung 
his hands, palms out, in a wide gesture. 

** They're all gone, boysl^' he called. The 
note of sorrow in his voice was unmistakable. 

For a few seconds, a tense silence rested 
on the ragamuffin recipients of his bounty. 
But, in another moment, the grateful men 
broke into cheers that grew in volume, be- 
came a thunderous din of thanksgiving. The 
psBan of praise was a wonderful music in the 
ears of David — a music that reached to his 
heart, and melted it. The tears of a pure 
happiness misted his eyes. He nodded stiflBiy 



22 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

in acknowledgment of the cheers, and then 
in great confusion climbed to his seat, gath- 
ered np the reins, and, with a crack of the 
whip, set the mules jogging. 



CHAPTER m 

THE whirl of emotion continned without 
change nntil, with a shock of surprise, 
David looked about him and realized that 
he was in the Salisbury main street. He 
pulled the mules to a halt mechanically, but 
did not move from his place. A swift re- 
vulsion of feeling battered down his com- 
placent mood, and left him the prey of mis- 
givings which increased in intensity from 
moment to momenta At last, his conscious- 
ness awoke to the nature of his act in yield- 
ing to a heedless impulse. He perceived that 
by the impetuousness of his conduct where 
he had meant only kindness to those in want 
he had actually inflicted wrong on the man 
who trusted him. It was with a feeling of 
blank despair that he admitted the truth 
concerning his deed. He had given with 
noble generosity. Unfortunately, the gifts 
were not his to bestow. The supplies for his 
charity had been stolen from William Swaim. 
That no theft had been intended made no 



24 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

difference. The ugly fact remained. The 
glow of satisfaction was gone now. In its 
stead came a chill of apprehension. He 
shivered with dread of what the outcome 
might be. 

David slumped in his seat, and groaned. 
His dismay was abject. But he made a 
mighty effort to regain some degree of cour- 
age in the face of the disaster he had so 
unwittingly wrought. He reflected that at 
least the issue need riot be faced for many 
hours yet, since there remained a long drive 
homeward. He was sure, with dismal fore- 
boding, that he would be unable to sleep the 
coming night. There would be time a plenty 
for consideration and decision as to his 
course while he lay rolled in his blanket be- 
neath the stars. 

Since he had no business in town, thanks 
to his kindly folly, David turned the mules, 
and started back drearily along the way over 
which he had come with such high hopes. As 
he passed the stockade, he held his eyes 
studiously averted from the scene of his un- 
doing. But, when he encountered the cara- 
van which he had left behind, he played the 
hypocrite, and bragged shamelessly in an- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 25 

swer to questions concerning the quickness 
with which he had disposed of his load. 

**Got rid of 'em in a jiffyl'' he announced 
quite truthfully. But the triumphant smile 
that accompanied the words was a lie. 

Melancholy drove with David across the 
miles. His brain grew weary and then numb 
in the effort to devise some means of relief 
from the difficulty of his position. The little 
money left with him by his father had been 
spent. Though Swaim had made him earn a 
man's wages, there had been no contract to 
pay them, and there was no slightest like- 
lihood that the old man meant to expend any 
money unless compelled to do so. Could he 
have paid the market value of the apples, 
the arrangement of the matter would have 
been simple. He might have been jeered at 
for the sentimental absurdity of his per- 
formance, but that would have been the worst 
result. There would have been no question 
of dishonor. But he had thrown away the 
property of another, while without power to 
make good his fault by purchase. Yes, he 
was undoubtedly a thief. William Swaim 
would not hesitate to call him just that — a 
thief I 



26 THE HOMEWABD TEAIL 

His forebodings were justified, for that 
night David did not sleep. Again and again, 
he went over the event of the morning with 
increasing bitterness against himself. But, 
in the course of his unhappy musings, he at 
last seized on a diversion from his own self- 
condemnation. It was as he chanced to re- 
member the little, red-whiskered man whose 
greedy selfishness had interfered at the out- 
set when the first apple was thrown, and 
had thus been the actual cause of the catas- 
trophe that followed. David's spirit was 
filled with exceeding bitterness at thought 
of the man. The feeling increased in in- 
tensity until it was very near hate. It com- 
forted him in some degree to charge another 
with the blame. 

An inquisitive opossum came cautiously 
nosing. David threw a pine knot, and sent 
the intruder scurrying away. It was just 
as the first dull gray of the coming dawn 
lightened the ptirple black above the eastern 
hills. And it was in this moment that an 
inspiration came to David. He smiled grimly 
to himself in the darkness. The device he 
had hit upon was palpably flunsy. He was 
well aware that it by no means met the re- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 27 

quirements of his case. The sole merit of 
the idea was that it afforded a possible, 
though by no means plausible, pretext for 
self -justification. Still greatly troubled, but 
somewhat consoled by the fact that he had a 
defensive plea in readiness, David break- 
fasted, and hurried the mules onward. And 
now, curiously enough, as the distance short- 
ened, he found himself thinking less and less 
of Swaim's condemnation, and more and 
more of what Ruth might feel over this thing 
that he had done. Once again, too, he found 
himself brooding over those tremors pro- 
voked in him by Ruth's last kiss. He tasted 
a flavor in the remembrance. His pulse 
quickened, with a tingling in the blood. A 
flush showed through the tan of his cheeks. 
His eyes deepened and glowed. And, not- 
withstanding all this, he did not quite under- 
stand the emotion that held him enthralled. 
It was still early morning, for he had sent 
the mules forward at a smart pace, when 
David swung into the Swaim farmyard. 
Ruth was busy at the milking, squatting on 
her heels, using one hand only on the teats 
and holding the tin cup in the other, accord- 
ing to the custom of the neighborhood. Hear- 



/ 



V 28 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

ing the rattling of the wagon, she hurried 
to the stable door, and waved a hand in greet- 
ing. Then, as she saw her father come out 
of the barn, she retreated, for she was not 
minded to have any witness to her next in- 
terview with David. 

The old man's cadaverous face was con- 
torted to lines of jubilation. His welcome 
was unqualifiedly genial. 

**Wall, Dave, I didn't 'low t' see ye afore 
sundown, an' mos' likely not till atter break- 
fast t'-morrer. Ye sure must be some kin 
t' lightnin'. Them mules don't look like 
they'd turned a har." As David threw down 
the reins and alighted from the wagon, 
Swaim, with a grin of anticipation, stepped 
close, and extended his right hand, palm up, 
in readiness to receive his money returns 
from the trip. 

**Thar must be a right smart o' call fer 
my kind o' limber twigs in Salisbury these 
days,'* he cackled in high glee. **Ye'd bet- 
ter fix t' load up an' go right thar ag'in 
whilst the folks is buyin' so lively-like." 

David held himself resolutely erect, and 
spoke with an assumption of boldness that 
he was far from feeling. 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 29 

**Why, Mr. Swaim/' he said, in a tone as 
casual as he could muster, **I got back so 
quick ^cause I didn^t have t' take the apples 
clean through t' Salisbury. I found a cus- 
tomer on the rise o^ the hill where they 
keep the Yankees that all look so powerful 
hungry. ^^ He forced a smile. **The feller 
what bought the apples stood right there in 
the schooner an' done tossed the last of 'em 
right smack over that-there punchin fence 
while those poor devils scrambled an' fit t' 
git holt onto one." A flash of reminiscent 
enthusiasm made his face radiant. **I tell 
ye, Mr. Swaim, it was wuth twice the wuth 
o' the load to see how much good they did 
them starvin' humans. The feller what 
bought 'em just couldn't he'p it, 'cause his 
heart was teched by sufferin'." David 
gulped, hesitated for an instant, then added 
firmly: ** That feller was me. I hain't nary 
cent t' pay ye fer 'em. If ye won't wait till 
pap gits home ag'in, I'll hxmt a job t' work 
itout.'* 

William Swaim 's jaw sagged, and he 
gaped for a few seconds at the young man, 
dumb from sheer amazement over this revela- 
tion. Then, presently, as his mind took in 



30 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

the full enormity of David's offense, his face 
grew ashen, and he trembled. His miserly 
soul was wrenched by the loss of those dol- 
lars he had hoped to fondle. An uncontrol- 
lable wrath mounted against the lad who had 
thus betrayed him. His watery, red-rimmed, 
blinking eyes cleared suddenly and flamed. 
He strode a step forward, and lifted a 
clenched fist. 

**Take thet, ye damn' thief P' he screamed. 
His voice came shrill, cracked with rage, as 
he struck out blindly. 

David guarded himself against the attack, 
but made no offensive movement in return. 
He was in the fuU of his strength, whUe the 
elder man was old for his years, and by no 
means strong. The youth had no fear of 
suffering any serious injury from the vicious 
assault, and so limited himself to defensive 
measures in which he was successful enough. 
He had no wish to aggravate his fault by 
thrashing the man he had already injured 
so dolorously in the pocketbook. Moreover, 
he could not forget that William Swaim was 
the father of Buth, and as such necessarily 
immune from violence at his hands. 

Buth, having just finished her milking, heard 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 31 

her father's shouted words, and echoed them 
>ith a stifled shriek of alarm. She dropped 
the cup of milk, and raced toward the bam* 
She was just in time to see her father, more 
than ever infuriated by his failure to break 
down David's guard, turn and leap to a 
pitchfork lying on the bam floor. Armed 
with this dangerous weapon, he again faced 
David. Euth knew well the peril of the 
moment, for she was aware that her father 
possessed a temper which, though usually 
controlled, was when unleashed a madness 
that knew no bounds. The pitchfork was 
clmost at her breast when she hurled herself 
between the two men, and cried out wildly 
to her father to stop. 

William Swaim halted, a dazed expression 
on his face at the unexpectedness of the girPs 
intervention. 

**0h, pap," Ruth gasped, ** ain't you 
ashamed of acting like that with Dave — 
Dave been so kind and helpful to us 

aUI'' 

The old man was checked, but the wrath 
still flared. He retorted with such haste that 
the words came stammeringly. 

**He'pful!" he sneered. **He'B a thief— 



32 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

thet's what he is. He done stole my apples, 
my limber twigs what meant real money f er 
me. An' he's wnss nor a thief — ^he's a fool, 
plumb daffy, fer he says he done fed 'em t' 
the Tank' pris'ners down t' Salisbury. But 
I don't swaller no sech lie like thet-thar. 
Nary thief kin stuff Bill Swaim thet-away 
s 'long's he loves the lady on the dollar." 

The outbreak of speech had served as a 
safety-valve for Swaim's fury. David 
realized that the father would not assault 
him further in the daughter 's presence. For 
the time being at least, the crisis was past. 
He put his hands on Ruth's shoulders, and 
swung her about to face him. Even in this 
moment of stress, he noted with a thrill of 
new delight the loveliness of her flushed face, 
the splendor of the violet eyes that met his 
so steadfastly and so loyally. Then his lips 
twisted to a whimsical smile, and he spoke 
in a tone half of raillery, half of serious- 
ness. 

**I'm plumb guilty, Ruth," he declared. 
*'I'm jest that-there fool what your pap 
spoke of. But I done stole the apples t' feed 
starvin' humans — ^not fer love o' the lady 
on the dollar. ' ' 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 33 

'*Tell me I'' Euth urged. Both she and 
David had forgotten William Swaim, who 
lowered the pitchfork until the prongs 
touched the ground^ and then stood leaning 
on the handle, staring malevolently at the 
young man. 

David told his story with great earnest- 
ness. He suddenly felt that the most import- 
ant thing in the world was to make Euth 
understand exactly what had occurred. 
Nothing else mattered if only he could retain 
her good opinion. To this end he recounted 
his adventure in detail from the first blowing 
back of the canvas flap by the wind through 
all the incidents to the final scene with her ' 
father. And through it all Euth listened 
breathlessly, at the outset astounded by the 
extraordinary happening, soon sympathetic, 
and finally happy over his generous im- 
pulse. 

Swaim, too, listened. Somehow, greatly to 
his surprise, he felt his anger passing. He 
forgot in part his sorely wounded avarice. 
Now that he had sustained the first shock 
to his greed, he gave ear to the narrative 
with a curious mingling of emotions. Against 
his will, he was compelled to a feeling of 



*1^ 



84 THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 

admiration for this lad who had robbed him 
in a fit of extravagant generosity. More- 
over, he was ashamed now that he had let 
his temper so master him. He was horror- 
struck at thought of what he might have 
done, had Euth not interposed between him 
and his mad desire. Bemorse gnawed at 
his heart. Lest he reveal the softening of his 
spirit, he stealthily moved away, and passed 
out of sight belund the bam. 

Euth and David took no note of Swaim's 
departure. They were absorbed in each 
other, and in the story the young man told. 

As he ended, the girl exclaimed in praise : 

* ' Oh, it was splendid of you, Dave ! I love 
you for it!*' 

There was no thought now of the embar- 
rassment created between them by that last 
kiss in the orchard. She threw her arms 
around David's neck, and, with the ease of 
old habit, lifted her mouth to his, and kissed 
him. 

Even in the act, recollection came to her, 
and the blood flooded her cheeks. She would 
have drawn back, but it was too late; their 
lips were already joined. And at the con- 
tact she felt a vibrant joy that eddied in 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 36 

every atom. Thought ceased. There was 
only an exquisite rapture that pervaded all 
her being. Her senses seemed to fail. But 
nothing mattered— only the bUss singing in 
her heart. David ^s arms were like bands of 
steel about her, holding her close, so close! 
as if he would never let her go. And she 
had no wish save to be held thus always. 
His lips lay on hers like a flan^ that thrilled 
through the flesh to warm and gladden the 
soul. 

For David understood at last the mystery 
that had so baflfled him. In that second when 
she threw herself before him to save him 
from her father ^s frenzy his heart had 
leaped in an emotion deeper and sweeter and 
nobler by far than gratitude. He recog- 
nized that emotion for what it was — ^the love 
of a woman, concerning which hitherto he 
had only guessed crudely. The very intimacy 
through all the years of adolescence between 
him and Ruth had served to prevent his 
thinking of her as other than a sister, a 
comrade. Now, however, he knew her for 
the concrete verity of vaguely tender rev- 
eries. She was the one woman. He held 
her crushed to his bosom, and his lips were 



36 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj ' 

eager. He was exultant, masterful in the 
joy of possession. He loved her, and he 
knew that she loved him. Her lips told him 
that in silence. Nothing else in the universe 
mattered at all. 



CHAPTER IV 

AFTER a long interval, the lovers drew 
apart. They glanced about them with 
a guilty air, and were relieved that no one 
was observing them. They were both very 
happy, but, too, after the period of abandon- 
ment, they were now a little confused and 
embarrassed toward each other, made self- 
conscious by the bigness of this thing that 
had developed in their lives with such amaz- 
ing suddenness. 

It was David who first returned to prosaic 
thought. His gaze chanced to fall on the 
empty wagon. The sight of it brought back 
to memory the evil fashion in which Swaim 
had reviled him as a thief. The radiance of 
his face vanished. In its place came a somber 
darkening. His eyes hardened, and his lips 
set in lines of grim determination. 

**IVe gotter git out,'^ he said curtly to 
Ruth, who stared at him in astonishment 
over the abrupt change in his manner. His 

37 



38 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

voice was gentle, but held a stem note of 
resolve. 

**Why, what do you mean, Davef the 
girl asked anxiously. 

*'I must git out o' here t '-night, *' was the 
answer. **I'm goin' somewhere t' earn a 
bit o' money fer a bill I'm owin' t' William 
Swaim.'' 

* * No, no I ' ' Euth remonstrated. Her heart 
sickened at the thought that she must lose 
this lover whom she had only just found. 

David shook his head obstinately, and the 
firmly modeled chin was thrust forward a 
little. 

** There's no two ways about it," he de- 
clared. **It will be powerful hard t' leave 
ye, Ruth, just after we've got t' be sweet- 
hearts, but it can't be helped. I can't thrash 
yer pap, Ruth — ^jest 'cause he's an old man, 
an' cause he's yer pap. An' if I can't lick 
him, why, I just naturally gotter pay him fer 
them apples." His face lightened a little 
as he smiled wryly. **T' pay him I got t' git 
money, an' t' git money I got t' git out o' 
here." 

*'I know pap better than you do, Dave," 
Ruth argued. She was eager to change his 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 39 

decision, even thongli an instinct told her 
that her hope was in vain. ** Pappy has an 
awful temper, and he's pretty close. He 
just flew offl the handle, and didn^t know 
what he was doing. He^s all over his mad 
by now, and mighty ashamed of himself. 
And, anyhow, he knows you're good for the 
money. 'Tisn't as if your father was poor,'* 

David shook his head once again. 

**My pap's money ain't any help, 'cause 
there's no way fer me t' git hold of any of 
it till he comes back from that-there prison 
up North. Ye see, Ruth, I ain't hankerin' 
t' 'company none with Bill Swaim till I pay 
him an' prove I ain't the damn^ thief what 
he called me. ' ' There was a tone of finality 
in the utterance, which the girl recognized. 
She yielded to it, though bitterly reluctant. 

**When will you go, Davet" she inquired, 
almost timidly. 

*' Sometime in the night, ^' David replied; 
**like a thief should." He disregarded 
Ruth's protest. **An' don't ye breathe a 
word about it t' yer pap er yer mammy." 

**But if I told pappy, he might — " Ruth 
began. 

David interrupted her. 



40 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

**Not a word t^ yer pap, Buth,*' he com- 
manded. The girl yielded, though somewhat 
grudgingly. 

**I suppose I must do as you say,'* she 
pouted. ** Wherever do you %w to go, 
Dave ! * ' There was a tremor of curiosity in 
her voice, and she added pleadingly: **0h, 
don^t go far away, dear!'* 

The young man regarded her with great 
tenderness. 

**Not a mite further than I have tV^ he 
declared. **I ain^t noways pinin' t^ be shet 
o' ye, Buth. An' ye can bet that 111 come 
back a-runnin' the first chance I git.** 

The conversation ended in new caresses 
between the lovers, which left them palpitat- 
ing with happiness, the more intense because 
it had for a background the shadow of a 
parting so soon to come. 

Throughout his work that day, David's 
brain was teeming with contradictory plans 
concerning the direction his journey should 
take. He decided after long considera- 
tion that his best hope of speedy success 
with the undertaHng would lie in following 
the Yadkin Eiver down to Georgetown in 
South Carolina, where in all probability em- 



THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 41 

ployment might be found. Or perhaps he 
might strike across inland from Georgetown 
to Charleston, on the coast, where the op- 
portunity would be still greater. 

No words were passed between David and 
Swaim at meals. Mrs. Swaim, whose deli- 
cate face showed the ravages wrought by the 
sorrows of an uncongenial marriage, be- 
trayed by her nervous manner that she knew 
of what had occurred between the two men, 
but neither she nor her daughter made any 
reference to David's trip to Salisbury or its 
unfortunate outcome. After supper Buth 
found an opportunity to speak alone with 
David in the orchard where he had gone to 
smoke his pipe. 

**Tou're really going to-night f she 
queried, when they had kissed each other. 

**Yes,'* David answered simply. He ex- 
plained to her his purpose of going down 
the river in his skiff. **I'll slip away as 
soon as the old folks are asleep,'' he con- 
cluded. 

**I'll make you a package of provisions," 
the girl promised. There came a ripple of 
laughter. ** Pappy won't know. Mammy 
will, but she won't mind. She'll be glad." 



42 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

The girl was serious again now. ^^ Mammy 
likes you, Dave.** 

The lover was a bit confused by this in- 
direct praise. He spoke sheepishly, but with 
sincerity. 

**Yer mammy ^s a fine woman.** 

But Ruth, though usually a dutiful daugh- 
ter and affectionate, was not now interested 
in her mother's excellence. Her whole in- 
terest was absorbed by this being who had 
been her playfellow and intimate companion 
for years, yet to-day was revealed to her 
as a stranger — ^the lover whom she adored 
and whom, because he was her lover, she 
did not feel that she knew at all. The 
mystery of the new relation fascinated her. 
And by so much as there was charm in the 
present relation by so much there was grief 
at thought of the coming separation. 

*'I*11 bring the package of rations down 
to the boat,** she said. **I'll have it ready 
for you by ten o'clock.** She regarded him 
accusingly as if she had subconsciously de- 
tected in his mind some idea of evasion. 
**Don*t you dare to go before I get there.*' 

And David assured her that he would not, 
and ratified the pledge with many kisses. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 43 

They were not night-owls in the Swaim 
household. By nine o'clock all had gone to 
bed— ostensibly. As a matter of fact, Swaim 
and his wife had dtily retired, and had al- 
most immediately fallen asleep. David and 
Ruth, however, were wide-awake. On going 
to his room after supper, the young man at 
once busied himself with the modest prepara- 
tions for departure. It was indeed a simple 
matter to pack in his carpet-bag the few 
articles of a very limited wardrobe. When 
his preparations had been completed, he sat 
down by the window, and comforted himself 
with a pipe while awaiting the lapse of time 
sufficient to insure sound sleep on the part 
of the elder Swaims. Finally he struck a 
match and saw by the flare that his watch 
marked almost ten o'clock. Carrying his 
shoes in one hand, and the carpet-bag in the 
other, with his rifle in the crook of the arm, 
he crept out of the room in his stockinged 
feet, and made his way with as little noise as 
possible over the board flooring that creaked 
alarmingly under his weight, past the bed- 
room door through which sounded William 
Swaim 's raucous snores and the softer 
breathing of the woman, and on down the 



44 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

stairs. He entered the lean-to Mtchen, and 
felt his way through the darkness to the 
pantry door, which stood ajar. He whis- 
pered Euth^s name. There was no answer, 
and he guessed that the girl had finished her 
task already, and had gone on before him 
down to the river. He was confirmed in this 
belief, when, after recrossing the kitchen, he 
found the back door standing half-open. 
Sure that he would find her waiting for him 
by the boat, he went out into the night. 

After the dense dark within the house, the 
night seemed well lighted with starlight 
streaming from the cloudless heavens and 
the golden glory of the hunter ^s moon. The 
tension under which David had been acting 
was suddenly relaxed as he felt the spell 
of the night's serenity. The hush of an in- 
finite peace encompassed him, and for a long 
minute, he stood motionless, yielding to the 
charm of it. A tang of autumn chill was in 
the air. The young man filled his lungs with 
a deep breath, which at once soothed and 
stimulated him. Then, abruptly, his thoughts 
veered to the girl who waited for his com- 
ing by the river. Now, as he looked on the 
still splendors of the night, he saw them as 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 45 

the fit setting for the loveliness of Euth. In- 
stantly, he was impatient to be with her, 
and set off running lightly down the lane 
that led to the river. He covered the quarter 
of a mile quickly. As he drew near where 
the skiff was moored, the girl caught a 
glimpse of him. 

**Dave?*' she called questioningly. There 
was a hint of anxiety underiying the music 
in the soft utterance, which David, in his 
happier mood, missed altogether. 

** Supplies all stored aboard, ehf he ques- 
tioned in his turn, by way of answer. 

Euth tried rather unsuccessfully to meet 
his gayety in kind. 

* * Ay, ay, siV, ' ' she replied briskly. * * Ship 's 
fully provisioned for the voyage, captain. *' 
Despite her effort, the words came quavering 
a little. And now David perceived the dis- 
tress she was striving to conceal. He swept 
her into his arms, and kissed her many 
times. 

**Te mustn't be unhappy, Euth,*' he com- 
manded with a gentleness that was none the 
less authoritative. **I couldnH bear t' think 
o' ye moumin' here while I'm out there in 
the world.'' 



46 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

The girl understood that he had no thought 
of giving up his purpose to save her from 
grief. The idea had not even occurred to 
him. She called it to his attention, but quite 
hopelessly. 

** Can't you stay with me, Davef she 
asked, and in the inflection of the words was 
a prayer that he would. 

Dave spoke sternly. 

**I've done got t' square my debt t' yer 
pap. There ain 't no other way. ' ' His voice 
softened, and he held the girl closer as he 
went on speaking: **But I'll be a-pinin' fer 
you-all, Euth, all the time I'm away. An' 
it '11 seem a mighty long time, too. ' ' 

**Tou don't reckon it will really be very 
long, do you, Dave?" the girl asked, with a 
pathetic inflection of dismay at the sugges- 
tion. 

* ' Shucks I No, ' course not. 'Twon 't take 
scarcely any time wuth mentionin' t' earn 
enough t' pay fer them cussed limber twigs. 
An' the minute I git a holt on the money, 
I'll come a-runnin'. An' I won't be scramb- 
lin' back so all-fired fast jest fer the sake 
o' seein' yer pap ag'in. It's you-all my eyes 
an' my lips will be achin' fer." He kissed 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 47 

her hair very gently, again and again. The 
perfume of it was like incense to him. The 
parting so near at hand pained him, but he 
felt that he must not give way to his own 
sorrow, since she must need his greater 
strength to comfort her in her womanly 
weakness. He patted her back in a clumsy 
effort to console. 

Euth stood clinging to him with her head 
buried in his bosom. She was crying softly, 
with little muffled sobs. This separation was 
to her a very terrible thing. It seemed to 
her that its coming thus immediately after 
their mutual confession of love made it all 
the more dreadful. There had been no time 
to realize the intercommunion of their hearts 
before a cruel fate interposed to thrust them 
apart. Even had matters stood merely on 
the former friendly footing between them, 
she must have found the abrupt departure 
of David a cause for suffering. Now, since 
the intimacy between them had developed 
into a mutual passion, she was stricken to 
the soul that the man she loved should go 
from her and leave her in desolate loneliness. 

Euth ceased weeping after a time, though 
she had heard but dully the murmured en- 



48 THE HOMEWARD TBAHj 

couragement and endearments with which 
David sought to cheer her flagging spirits. 
The change in her was due chiefly to a sudden 
thought that the expression of her despair 
would tend to make her lover too unhappy. 
So, with the instinct of self-sacrifice that is 
natural to the fond woman, she used all her 
strength of will to cast off the external signs 
of depression in order that she might not 
inspire melancholy in David when he most 
required courage for his adventuring out 
into the world. She raised her face and gave 
him kiss for Mss, and joyous words of love 
and trust. The young man responded gladly. 
He spoke with confidence of the future, of 
his hopes for a speedy return to her arms, 
of the perfect life they would live together 
through the long years to come. 

It was midnight when the last farewell 
was spoken between them, and David pushed 
the skiff from the shore, and let it swing into 
the current of the river. The girl stood 
tense in restraint on the land, peering with 
dilated eyes to detect the final bit of shadow 
moving over the water, which gave the vague 
outline of the man she loved. And David, 
looking ^ack as the boat drifted slowly down 



THE HOMEWARD TEAIL 49 

the stream, held his gaze fast to that gray 
silhouette, dimly seen beneath the moon- 
light on the shore, which was Euth — ^Ruth, 
his sweetheart I Then, presently, the ghostly 
figure vanished in the mist-wraiths, to be 
seen no more. A pang of infinite loneliness 
pierced David *s breast as the vision of the 
girl faded from Ms view. For long moments 
he sat brooding, disconsolate and rebellious 
over the destiny that tore him from her. 
But, presently, the peace of the night touched 
him again with its benediction, and his sor- 
row fell from him. His fancy turned to the 
adventure that awaited him in the coming 
days. He bent to the oars and sent the sHff 
forward with long steady strokes. And as 
he sped on through the night, he was no 
longer lonely, for he was companied with 
his dreams. 



CHAPTER V 

FOB some hours David rowed steadily, 
though with a leisurely stroke. But 
on passing beyond that portion of the river 
most familiar to him, he gave over rowing, 
and with an oar for rudder, was content to 
let the skiff float lazily with the sluggish 
current. He chose this method of journeying 
not so much to escape fatigue as for the 
sake of caution. The waters of the winding 
stream were usually shallow, and although 
his craft was flat-bottomed with a draft of 
only a few inches, it was necessary to steer 
with care to avoid driving on one of the pro- 
jecting rocks. So, the progress was slow, yet 
made with a luxurious ease that suited the 
traveler's mood and left him free for pleas- 
ant reverie. There was something almost 
hypnotic in that silent, stately floating over 
the velvet dark surface, between serried 
sentinel ranks of poplars and sycamores, 
which lined either shore. The moon dropped 

50 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 51 

toward the western horizon so that the boat 
moved within the heavy shadows of the trees, 
and David guided it ahnost by instinct rather 
than by sight. The moon dipped lower 
swiftly and set. The scene became weird; a 
vague and melancholy vista. A breeze 
sprang up before the dawn. The air grew 
colder, so that David felt the dank chill of 
it, and shivered. He shook off the sense of 
oppression that crept upon his spirits, and 
determined to make camp on shore. 

He sent the boat rustling through the 
reeds that opposed their frail barrier be- 
tween the channel and the bank. The skiff's 
bow lifted and slid up easily on a sandy 
beach. David clambered out. His move- 
ments were stiff at first from his hours of 
sitting during the cool night. But, very soon, 
his blood quickened its flow, his muscles be- 
came warm and supple again. His simple 
preparations were speedily made. The boat 
was uptilted on its side, propped in position 
by the oars, to serve as a wind-break. He 
did not trouble to cook a meal, but was satis- 
fied with a few mouthfuls of cold meat. Then 
he rolled himself snugly in his blanket, and 
almost within the second was fast asleep. 



52 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

The sun was hours high when finally David 
stirred, yawned noisily, stretched his muscles 
until the joints crackled in protest, and sat 
up. His mood was harmonious with the joy- 
ous day, and he felt a cheerful readiness to 
fare forward on his quest. He was beset 
with a ravenous hunger, and hurried the 
preparation of hot food from his store of 
com meal, bacon and coffee. Then, replete, 
he resumed his journey. 

For three days, David followed the course 
of the river at his ease. By night he would 
lie up in some sheltered nook on the bank, 
and by day he would drift with the current, 
rowing only occasionally in the more open 
and level stretches of water. The weather 
held fair, so that he suffered no discomfort 
from this source. The food supplies were 
ample for his needs, and he added to them 
with game that fell to his rifle. Flocks of 
wild duck and geese were frequent. Often 
as he rounded a bend of the river he would 
find them clustered thick before him. More 
than once his bullet caught a green-headed 
mallard before it could rise into the air. 

It was on the third day, when he had 
traversed a distance of perhaps seventy-five 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 53 

miles from the Swaim homestead, that David, 
at nightfall, drew near the city of Salisbury. 
Though unfamiliar with the river itself in 
this direction, he was able to recognize his 
surroundings by certain landmarks. Chief 
among these was the stockade of the Con- 
federate prison, which loomed through the 
gloaming, sinister and hideous, on the higher 
ground above the river. The sight of it, thus 
vaguely seen at dusk, touched the adven- 
turer's spirit with an xmreasoning bitter- 
ness. He was not in the least repentant for 
what he had done here in a flush of generous 
enthusiasm. But just now he keenly re- 
gretted the miles that lay between him and the 
girl he loved. Here was the cause of their 
separation, and he loathed it accordingly. 
Then, inevitably, his thought jumped to the 
red-whiskered man, who had been first to 
rob the cripple, and thereby had precipitated 
the catastrophe. David felt a flare of fury 
against this fellow, as he had before while 
returning from Salisbury. Now, however, 
his feeling was even fiercer, for this con- 
scienceless rogue by his theft had come be- 
tween the lovers. A surge almost of hatred 
swept up in the lad's bosom. His fingers 



54 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

twitched convulsively, as if he longed to be 
at grips with the man, to thrash into him 
some sense of decency in his conduct toward 
cripples, 

A faint, bell-like rhythm came down on the 
breeze. It seemed to issue from the direc- 
tion of the stockade, and moment by moment 
it grew louder. David knew the sound, and 
his pulse quickened. He had meant to push 
on to the ferry landing a little way below, 
where the flat-bottomed scow was still poled 
across the stream, when any traveler blew 
a sununons on the tin horn. He had intended 
to camp there for the night, and thence to 
walk the two miles into Salisbury next morn- 
ing, to inquire for possible news of his 
father. But now he forgot the swift ap- 
proach of night in this new interest in the 
sound borne to his ears by the wind. With 
a thrust of his steering oar he turned the 
skiff's bow to the shore. The bank here was 
high and steep, and the current ran swiftly. 
He caught hold of an out-jutting branch 
from a birch that grew on the shore, and so 
held the boat from being swept on. The 
rhythmic booming noise sounded more 
loudly. It was the baying of hounds. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 55 

The instinct of the chase set David quiver- 
ing with excitement. What the quarry of 
the dogs might be he had no means of know- 
ing, but he guessed that they must be on the 
trail of either a fox or a deer. He hoped 
that it might be the latter. His mouth 
watered at the possibility of venison broiled 
over the coals for supper. Still keeping the 
skiff in position by his grip on the bough, 
he seized the rifle with his right hand in 
readiness for instant action if the prey 
should come his way. Thus prepared, he 
stood poised, listening intently. 

There could be no doubt that the chase 
was drawing nearer. There seemed every 
likelihood that the fleeing creature was striv- 
ing to reach the river in a last desperate 
effort to escape its pursuers. The light 
was going fast now, but in the open space 
of the river it was still sufficient to afford 
a fair aim. 

A crackling sound came from the under- 
brush that covered the shore. The noise of 
it increased. David wondered at the volume 
of it. Even a stag running its swiftest could 
hardly go crashing like that. It was head- 
ing straight for him, too — ^whatever the 



56 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

thing might be. He still hoped it would 
prove to be a deer, although he doubted. 
The floundering body bursting through the 
thickets was almost upon him. He knew that 
in another second, unless pulled down by the 
dogs, it must break from the concealment 
of the woods. It was so close that there 
could be no danger of losing his opportunity 
by letting the boat drift, and he must have 
both hands for the shot. He loosened his 
clutch on the branch, the skiff dropped down 
the river. Even as it moved with the cur- 
rent, there was a final clatter of broken 
boughs at the edge of the high bank. A 
bulky something leaped from the shadows 
there, and hurtled forward in a long arc 
toward the water. And in that same second 
when the boat began to move, David's rifle 
sprang to his shoulder, and his eyes lined 
the sights on the thing chased by the dogs. 
But the weapon did not belch its deadly 
missile. Instead, a gasping cry of horror 
broke from David's lips; his forefinger fell 
from the trigger as if palsied. 
**Good God! an' I almost got him!'* 
He shuddered, and felt a nausea. 
*'It's a man — an' I almost got him I I 



THE HOMEWABD TEAIL 57 

might have killed him! It was a powerful 
close squeak. An^ I thought I was jest a-gun- 
nin' fer supper I*' 

David sat staring in fascinated horror at 
the man who had thus escaped the trailing 
of the hounds, which now whimpered their dis- 
tress from the shore. The fugitive had gone 
beneath the surface at his plunge. When he 
reappeared, spluttering, he started swim- 
ming at full speed toward the farther bank 
of the river, fifty yards away. But the shock 
of the cold water put too great a strain on 
his body, weakened and overheated as he was 
by his flight from the hounds. Suddenly, he 
uttered a shrill cry, threw up his hands, and 
sank. 

The skiff, tmchecked, had floated a con- 
siderable distance down stream. David was 
too far away to give immediate succor. But 
he lost no time before acting. In a moment 
he had dropped the rifle, and the oars were 
placed. He tested their strength in short, 
jumping strokes that sent the boat swiftly 
toward where the body must be swept along 
in the current. 

It was the' shallowness of the stream that 
gave David the chance of rescue. He caught 



58 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

a glimpse over his shoulder of the drown- 
ing man's form being swept over a sand 
strip hardly submerged. He was able to 
bring the skiff alongside before reaching 
deeper water, which would have made his 
task difficult, if not impossible. He dropped 
his oars, and caught the half-unconscious 
man by the shirt collar. "When he had se- 
cured a safe grip under the arms, he was 
able to get the fugitive aboard, thanks to 
the steadiness of his clumsy flat-bottomed 
skiff. This accomplished, he stretched the 
victim face downward, supported by a 
thwart under his belly, and proceeded first 
to empty him of the water and then to re- 
store him to full consciousness by such vigor- 
ous methods as he knew. The treatment 
was, in fact, remarkably efficacious, so that 
within a few minutes, the man, after a final 
bit of strangling, aroused to consciousness 
with a piteous appeal for mercy from further 
ministrations. 

David, greatly pleased with this result, 
lifted the fellow and turned him, so that he 
was in a sitting position. It was then, with 
his face close to that of the man he had pulled 
from the river, that David saw the features 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 59 

clearly. At sight of them he started back 
with an exclamation of disgust. 

**You!'' he grunted savagely. 

The irony of fate had made him the rescuer 
of the one man in the world against whom 
he cherished a grudge. He felt bitterly to- 
ward William Swaim, who had called him a 
thief. But he knew the justification for the 
old man^s anger, and the fact that it was 
due to his own fault kept him from nourish- 
ing resentment. That fault on his part, 
however, had come as the direct effect of 
another man's mean action. The red-whisk- 
ered Union prisoner, who had stolen the 
first apple meant for the cripple, was the 
real cause of all the trouble, David had 
cursed that greedy prisoner often. Now he 
cursed once again, for it was the red- 
whiskered individual whom he had just saved 
from drowning and who now sat before him, 
gasping and shivering from his immersion 
in the chill stream. The young man made no 
secret of his feeling, but let his mood gush 
forth in stinging words. 

**Ye thieving hard-hearted YankM As if 
ye hadn't given me trouble 'nough already, 
'r' a plumb-ornery scallywag, a-stealin' 



\ 



60 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

the apple I done throwed t' a cripple. I 
ain't aimin' t' save sich as you-all from bein' 
et by dogs er drownded. Hang yer carcass I 
Go ashore an' let them dogs chaw ye np 
piecemeal as ye deserve. Er ye can drown. 
Git ont, I'm tellin'ye!'' 

The man, who had been dazed at the out- 
set by David's violent denunciation, now in 
his turn recognized the young man who had 
thrown the apples over the stockade. Weak- 
ened by the peril through which he has just 
passed, he would have pleaded for mercy 
from the stalwart young man who stood over 
him so threateningly. But he had no time. 
As he shrank from the fierceness of the 
other's speech, David moved closer. When 
he ceased speaking, the mountaineer, in a 
final access of fury, picked up the wretched 
fugitive, and tossed him overboard toward 
the shore. 



CHAPTER VI 

AS the nnfortunate victim of adversity 
disappeared under water with a huge 
splash, David jumped to the oars, which he 
plied briskly to hold the skiff against the 
current. He had no fear lest the man drown, 
since he had tossed him into the shallows 
close to the shore under the bluff. But his 
indignation was not yet satisfied, and he 
meant to tell the fellow a few more candid 
truths concerning thieves and Yankees and 
oppressors of cripples. He only waited until 
the escaped prisoner should be in a position 
to give him due attention. 

For the moment, the soldier was in too 
serious a plight to listen even to the worst 
abuse. He managed to get to his feet after 
hard struggling and stood tottering and 
choking from the water he had swallowed. 
The river rose to his armpits, and it was 
evident that he had need of all his strength 
to withstand the sweep of the current. When 

61 



62 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

he had cleared his lungs a little, he moved 
with clumsy, staggering caution toward the 
shore. He slipped, and only with difficulty 
saved himself from going down. Plainly, 
the man was almost at the end of his re- 
sources. David in the boat two rods away 
could hear the hiss of the hurried, painfully 
drawn breath, the panting sigh with which it 
was exhaled. The mountaineer was touched 
with compunction. The fires of his anger 
died. He felt ashamed of the harshness he 
had displayed toward one who, whatever his 
fault had been, was now deserving of pity 
at least for the suffering he had under- 
gone already and those which he still faced. 
David was influenced, too, by the fact 
that the Union soldier made no plea to him 
for mercy, but maintained a stoical silence 
as he battled against the clutch of the 
stream. 

The sympathy that stirred in David's 
bosom was quickened to action by a new 
factor in the situation. The dogs, at the place 
on the river bank from which the fugitive 
had leaped into the water, had been attracted 
by the sound of David's voice at the point 
below to which the boat drifted, or they had 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 63 

caught the scent of their prey borne toward 
them on the wind. They came charging 
along the shore and only halted when they 
reached the high overhanging bank opposite 
their quarry. They rushed to the brink, but 
slunk back, unwilling to make the plunge 
down into the stream. They bayed and 
whimpered and growled with bared fangs. 
Even were the soldier to keep his pre- 
carious footing and escape out of the grip 
of the current, he would still have the 
bloodhounds to face, and they would be 
ruthless. 

David had declared that he wished the 
fellow might be thrown to the dogs, but he had 
said this in a gust of wrath. Now that the 
reality threatened, he was horror-struck at 
the possibility of such a fate for any fellow 
human being. Moreover, there came to him 
in this tense moment a thought of his own 
father in the Northern prison, who might be 
in flight as this man and fighting to escape 
with his life from merciless foes. David 
felt the impulse to help the hapless Union 
soldier against his adversaries, even as he 
would wish some Northern lad in a position 
like his own to give aid to his father. And, 



64 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

too, he was moved by an instinctive sympathy 
in favor of one against whom the odds were 
so heavy. 

Now, another weight was dropped in the 
balance to make David's decision in behalf 
of the fleeing prisoner. A noise of shoutings 
sounded out of the woods some distance back 
from the river bank. There could be no 
doubt that these cries came from the guards 
who were in pursuit of the fugitive, and 
were now hastening in the direction indicated 
by the baying of the bloodhounds. If as- 
sistance were to be of avail, no time must 
be lost. The man himself was incapable of 
avoiding recapture. He had managed to ap- 
proach more closely to the bank, and stood 
where the wat^ was not above his waist 
line. Blit it was apparent that his strength 
was well-nigh exhausted. Even in the fad- 
ing light he was visibly shivering from his 
contact with the stream. In his weakened 
condition, it would be manifestly impossible 
for him to breast the current and gain the 
farther shore of the river. On the bank be- 
fore him, the dogs waited, frantic with de- 
sire to set upon him, to rend and throttle 
him. The beasts would be reinforced by the 




Witii a strong push on tlie oars, lie sent the akift ^Wiit-waxi. 



THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 65 

pnrsTiing men, whose shouts indicated that 
they were rapidly drawing nearer. 

David hesitated no longer. With a strong 
push on the oars, he sent the skiff shore- 
ward. He saw that the man feared his ap- 
proach, naturally enough, for the fellow be- 
gan a stumbling progress up stream away 
from the advancing boat. After the treat- 
ment he had meted, the mountaineer could 
not wonder that he was regarded as an 
enemy. He called out to advise the soldier 
of his change of heart. 

**I canate mebbe I was a mite ha'sh. 
Leastways, I ain't a-goin' t' see ye et up 
by them durn bloodhounds. ' ' The man had 
halted at David's placating address, and the 
sMff now drew close to him. **I 'low I'm 
plumb foolish, but I aim t' git ye acrost the 
stream away from them dogs an' the humans, 
too. Jest ye climb in here right-smart spry. 
There ain't no time fer shennanigin. " 

The miserable object of the young man's 
compassion had no choice but to obey, though 
the expression on his face was of mingled 
alarm and perplexity over the kindly offer 
from the one who had just treated him with 
heartless violence. It is likely that he sus- 



66 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

pected the lad in the skiff of being either 
drunk or crazy — a belief easy enough in view 
of the rapid and amazing inconsistencies in 
conduct* This astonishing and dangerous 
person had first rescued him and then thrown 
him out to drown, and now promised to 
rescue him yet once again. But, since he 
had no choice, he yielded to David's impa- 
tient command, and with much diflficulty, due 
to his weakened state, managed to climb 
awkwardly over the side of the sHff, which 
the mountaineer held balanced against his 
weight. Then, the tension of his effort re- 
laxed, he rolled on the boat's bottom in a 
huddled heap of misery, shuddering and 
groaning. The instant he was aboard, David 
bent to his oars, and sent the skiff at full 
speed out into the channel of the river. 

The shadows of night had drawn down 
until even in mid-stream it would be diflfi- 
cult for those on the shore to pick out the 
shadowy movement of the boat. DaVid made 
all haste, increasing his speed a little as the 
voices of the men indicated their arrival at 
the bank. Since no new outcry came from 
those assembled there, the mountaineer was 
sure that the presence of the boat had not 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 67 

been detected. But he continued rowing 
down stream with the current as swiftly as 
possible for a long way, until full darkness 
had settled over land and water. No sound 
or movement came from the collapsed form 
of the fugitive, except a feeble moaning and 
now and then a convulsive trembling. As 
David felt the chill of the autunm night, it 
occurred to him that the exhausted man in 
his drenched garments might suffer seri- 
ously from the exposure. He rowed in to- 
ward the shore opposite the prison, and 
peered sharply through the shadows for a 
landing place. He made out a tiny cove, 
and beached the skiff on the shelving sand. 
Then he busied himself alertly in caring for 
this enemy whom he had saved from the 
cruelty of the elements and beasts and men. 
The fellow, half -unconscious, yielded himself 
to David's hands without any attempt at 
resistance. The young man stripped off the 
sodden garments, and then rolled the soldier 
snugly in a blanket, and bestowed him in 
the bottom of the boat. This done, he 
launched the skiff again, and continued on 
down the river steadily throughout the long 
hours of darkness, until a ghostly gray 



68 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

stealing into the horizon told that the dawn 
was near. Then, once more, he turned the 
boat's bow toward the western shore. After 
some search, he found an excellent landing 
in a little bay, where the entrance was al- 
most concealed from any passing on the river 
by a luxuriant growth of reeds and alders. 
Pine woods ran down to the shore, offering 
protection from the wind, and affording 
abundant fuel. Here David made his camp. 
The escaped prisoner, who was now sleep- 
ing soundly, and whose moaning had ceased, 
was left undisturbed in the skiff where it 
was drawn up on the gravelly shore. Soon, 
a brisk fire was burning. David spread out 
the soldier's tattered garments close by the 
blaze to dry. Then he betook himself to the 
preparation of a meal, for which he himself, 
having worked through the afternoon and 
the night without any supper, was nearly as 
ravenous as he knew his starving companion 
must be. 

The savory odor of sizzling bacon and eggs 
penetrated to the consciousness of the fam- 
ished fugitive. Hardly had the bubbling be- 
gun in the skillet which David held over the 
coals when the soldier, although a moment be- 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 69 

fore sunk in profound slumber, suddenly sat 
up, sniflBng rapturously. Drawn as the steel 
to the magnet, he got to his feet and climbed 
out of the boat and hurried toward the fire. 
He was not cheeked at all by the discovery 
that he was stark naked. He merely pulled 
the blanket about him Indian fashion, and 
went on. 

David nodded in recognition of the man's 
need* 

** Ready in a minute, '* he vouchsafed. 

When presently the fellow had been sup- 
plied with a tin plateful of the hot food, 
David was moved to new pity by the mani- 
fest hunger the man displayed. He let his 
own appetite go unsatisfied for a little in 
order to give his guest another helping. 
Then he cooked a second mess, which he 
divided between the two of them. 

When the meal was ended, the mountaineer 
shifted into his best suit of clothes, and gave 
the other to the soldier, who, he now learned, 
was named Sam Morris. The clothes were 
ridiculously large for the Yankee, but they 
were whole and decent and he was pathetic- 
ally grateful for the gift. His single pos- 
session of value that he had retained was 



70 THE HOMEWARD TBAHj 

a battered old pipe, which had been long 
without tobacco. His happiness was com- 
plete when David gave him a filling for the 
pipe, and he sat for a time in silence, pufBng 
luxuriously with that appreciation which is 
known only to those long deprived of such 
solace. 

**I guess you saved me from bein* 
drownded,'* Morris said at last. **Your 
feelings seem to be kind o' mixed. I guess 
you meant well all the time except for a 
minute you lost your temper. * ' 

**I 'low I was plumb het up/' David ad- 
mitted reluctantly. 

**An' I ain't the one to blame you," the 
soldier declared. **I don't wonder you had 
it in for me. It was a cussed mean trick, 
my swipin' that apple from that poor one- 
legged boy of ours. But I tell you, mister, 
when a man's starvin' he ain't rightly re- 
sponsible for the things he does. A man's 
belly is a mighty sight bigger than his con- 
science. Why, mister, I just couldn't help 
swipin' that apple. Was you ever hungry- 
real hungry, mister t" 

David laughed at the patent absurdity of 
the question. 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 71 

** Three er four times a day, 's fur back 
as I can remember. '^ Then his face sobered 
**But I callate I hain't ever been hungry 
like ye Yankees there inside the stockade. 
Yon-all was so pesky peaked and pinin\ it 
got me a-goin ' with them apples plumb reck- 
less. If I hadn't been so wrought up, I 
wouldn't 'a' been so darned free with an* 
other man's apples." He chuckled amusedly 
over his own discomfiture. 

**They wasn't your 'n I" Morris cried. 

David shook his head and his face 
lengthened. Then he told the full narrative 
of his exploit, while Morris listened eagerly, 
with many ejaculations of astonishment, of 
admiration, of sympathy. 

**Gosh all hemlock!" he vociferated, when 
the tale was ended. * * I certingly did get you 
into a peck of trouble, and now you're 
a-heapin' coals of fire on my head, as it 
were. ' ' 

**I owe ye somethin'," David replied with 
a grin, *'fer that extry duckin' I give ye in 
the river." 

The two men continued talking together 
for a time, discussing their future course of 
action. David, having embarked on the work 



72 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

• 

of rescue, was anxious to carry it to a suc- 
cessful conclusion. He felt a personal re- 
sponsibility for the man whom he had saved 
from recapture, and the feeling offset his 
natural antagonism to this enemy from the 
North, so that he was willing to work in the 
fugitive's behalf. The fellow's frank con- 
fession of fault in stealing the apple meant 
for the cripple had done much to change the 
mountaineer's hostile mood to one of friend- 
liness. It was quickly decided that the two 
should journey together to the coast. The 
soldier 's identity would hardly be penetrated 
by the few persons they were likely to meet 
on the voyage, since in David's clothes there 
was nothing of his outward appearance to 
betray him. The chief need for caution 
would be in the matter of speech. He must 
speak little if at all, lest his Yankee drawl 
excite suspicion. With their plans thus set- 
tled, the men wrapped themselves in their 
blankets, and, both alike over-wearied, slept 
soundly until noon of the next day. 

Their leisurely traveling down the river 
was for the most part uneventful. There 
were no signs of pursuit, and the few persons 
whom they encountered showed no suspicion, 



THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 73 

for David did the talking, and they regarded 
his taciturn companion with the stubble of 
red beard as a fellow mountaineer. It was 
not until they came near to the South 
Carolina border that adventure befell. 

Several miles before the Yadkin Biver 
crosses the state line, beyond which it flows 
peacefully on its way as the Great Pedee 
to mingle its cloudy waters with the clearer 
element of the sea, it passes through a nar- 
row defile worn down through the stone of 
the cUffs by the ceaseless friction of the 
waters during untold ages. Here, within the 
canyon, the stream rushes madly in a sharp 
descent, crowded within lofty walls. The 
cavernous place echoes with the roaring 
turbulence of the stream. To-day the huge 
power of the rapids has been harnessed for 
the making of electric current to supply 
cities and towns far and near. But half a 
century ago, the waters raced in wasteful 
riot through a region that was a wilderness. 

David, who was wholly tmfamiliar with 
this portion of the river, was able never- 
theless to calculate his near approach to 
the rapids by estimating the distance he had 
traveled from Salisbury. 



74 THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 

He spoke of the rapids to Morris. 

**I %w we're plumb close t* some rough 
water. I hain't never been this fur before, 
but, shucks! I ain't worryin'. I caPlate it 
ain't likely t' be as bad as some rapids I've 
shot up in the mountains." He regarded 
the soldier doubtfully. **Be ye a-f eared! 
If so be, I'll set ye ashore when we hear the 
river begin thunderin'. Ye '11 have a mighty 
hard climb t ' the foot o ' the rapids, I reckon, 
but it'll be safer, like's not, even if ye break 
a leg on the rocks. But I'm thinkin' ye 
wasn't born t' be drownded." He chuckled 
reminiscently. 

Morris, too, grinned in response. 

**I guess I'll stick to the boat," he as- 
serted. **I've been down rapids myself," 
he added boastfully. * *Up home, our Sunday 
school had an excursion to Ausable Chasm. 
Fine rapids there, by crickyi Went down 
in a steamer. It bobbed around something 
scandalous. The women was all a-squawkin' 
an' hangin' onto the men. I was close up to 
a pippin of a girl, but she didn't seem 
to have her right senses like, and hugged 
an old mossback with a fat wife, what 
dean forgot about them rapids in tell- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 75 

ing the girl she was a hussy and how to be- 
have.** 

It so chanced, as the skiff drifted down 
the current toward the beginning of the 
rapids, that the wind, which had been blow- 
ing with increasing violence, and veering 
from the west, now blew straight from the 
north. The efEect of it was to prevent the 
men in the boat from hearing the earlier 
sullen muttering of the troubled waters be- 
low. They were already within the grasp 
of the hurrying current before they were 
aware that the rapids were at hand. Even 
when they perceived from their increased 
speed that they were close to the descent, 
they were quite undisturbed, all unconscious 
of any grave peril before them. Had it not 
been for the wind, the mighty din would have 
warned them, would have bade them beware 
and investigate ere facing the danger that 
menaced them. But their ears were stopped. 
So, without a qualm of apprehension, they 
sat contentedly in the skiff, which darted for- 
ward with the smoothly hastening water at 
a speed that increased swiftly from moment 
to moment. Then, of a sudden, the river 
made a turn. Within the minute they were 



76 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

rushing through a sunless space of somber 
shadows inclosed by massive cliffs which 
towered, grim and relentless, between them 
and the outer world. 



CHAPTER Vn 

WITHOUT warning the uproar of the 
elements crashed on the ears of the 
two men in the skiff as their frail craft was 
swept into the rock-bound recess. Yet, at 
the outset, the clamor that came from the 
frantic waters further on was the only thing 
likely to cause alarm. 

This first stretch of the rapids gave no 
visible hint of the dangers lying in wait be- 
yond. The waters, while hurrying ever more 
swiftly, showed here a smooth surface, un- 
broken by projecting rocks. The fluid body 
moved forward calmly and evenly between 
the straight, parallel stretches of rock that 
hemmed it in. There was nothing threaten- 
ing in this movement so far as the eye could 
detect, though the swift increase in speed 
was a terrifying thing. But it needed no 
more than the thunderous din reverberating 
among the cliffs to proclaim the deadly peril 
that menaced close at hand. The enormous 

77 



78 THE HOMEWARD TRAH. 

noise at first astounded the two men, then 
appalled them. They shuddered and shrank 
back as if in recoil from the hideous up- 
roar. But the skiff bore them on remorse- 
lessly. The gaunt, pallid face of the Union 
soldier showed ghastly gray through the red 
bristles of beard; David's ruddy cheeks 
whitened beneath the tan. The escaped 
prisoner needed not to be told that a des- 
perate, if not fatal adventure confronted 
him. Here was nothing like the sportive 
liveliness of Ausable Chasm. This level 
flight forward toward the tumult of sound 
was unspeakably dreadful, ominous of de- 
struction lurking only seconds away, just 
beyond a break in the straight line of the 
canyon's walls, where now flashed the danger 
sign of white, far-flung masses of spray. 
David, too, felt terror 's cold grip on his heart. 
The rapids he had known had been nothing 
like this. 

With the singular lucidity that so often 
marks the memory in moments of gravest 
import, he recalled the various accounts he 
had heard of these rapids near the border. 
It seemed to him that each single word ever 
spoken to him concerning them now flashed 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 79 

through his brain. He realized, too, with a 
pang of shame for his own conceited heed- 
lessness of youth, that he had only himself 
to blame for the extremity in which he found 
himself. He had had warning enough of the 
trap set by the river here. Only, in the blind 
pride of his personal prowess, he had wil- 
fully discounted the tales told him concern- 
ing these ravening waters. He had only his 
own folly to accuse for the fatal pass into 
which he had entered so recklessly. It was 
a folly for which he might have to pay with 
his life. He knew from the infernal clamor 
bursting out of the distance that only a 
miracle could save any one alive out of such 
turmoil. 

Panic fell on David. He knew fear for 
the first time in his life. His heart failed 
him in the opening seconds of that stealthy, 
sinister volleying speed with the river's cur- 
rent. He saw the terror-stricken face of his 
companion turned toward him, vaguely out- 
lined against the gloom; he saw the man's 
mouth moving grotesquely, whether in pray- 
ers or curses he could not tell, since the 
booming clangor from the cliffs stilled all 
other sound. For that matter, David just 



80 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

then had no care for his fellow victim of the 
river; his sole concern was for himself — ^the 
selfish instinct of the creature for its own 
life, without a thought to spare for aught 
else in the universe. 

The impulse of fear drove David to vain 
endeavor. He swung the steering oar from 
its place in the stern, and beat with it fran- 
tically in furious swings through the water. 
He put every ounce of his strength into this 
assault against a relentless enemy. The ef- 
fort was futile. The skiff did not even swerve 
in its flight onward. It was the tragical 
struggle of a pygmy against a Titan. 

Morris was crouching on the bottom of the 
boat, as if seeking protection behind its frail 
bulwarks from the river 's f rightfulness. His 
eyes were glazed; his lips were writhing in 
impotent soundlessness. The soldier who 
had fought undismayed and bravely on many 
bloody fields, now huddled cowering and gib- 
bering in the grasp of stark despair. 

Something of sanity returned to David. 
Fear still possessed him, but his momentary 
panic passed. He realized the utter ab- 
surdity of any attempt to match his puny 
strength against the river's might. He 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 81 

recognized as well the futility of his pur- 
pose even could it have been achieved in turn- 
ing the sHff 's course to either side, for the 
twin walls of stone that confined the stream 
rose sheer for a long way. There was no- 
where any possibility of a landing place, 
nowhere a projection to which one might 
cling. Those bleak, slimy, perpendicular sur- 
faces were absolutely unscalable. The moun- 
taineer abandoned further effort. He strove, 
without much success, to regain some mea- 
sure of courage and to face the outcome, 
whatever it might be, in a spirit of manly 
fortitude. Mechanically he shipped his oar, 
and sat with countenance grimly set in 
readiness for whatever might befall. A de- 
fiant energy welled up in him. He would 
not cringe in the presence of the final catas- 
trophe, though he had no least hope of 
escaping alive out of this evil place. 

All this in a matter of seconds. The skiff 
fairly flew the length of the canyon ^s level 
stretch. It came with incredible quickness 
to the bend where against the outer cliff 
the pounding waters cast high wreaths of 
spume. David expected that the boat would 
be hurled against the rock, would be crushed 



82 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

to splinters, leaving them helpless in the 
race. But the time was not yet. The skiflf 
had been in the very center of the channel, 
and, though it now swung down within inches 
of the stern rampart, it did not quite touch. 
The falling spray came in a drenching 
shower. In the same instant the boat was 
swept with the stream in a great curve, and 
went hurtling along the second stage of the 
rapids. 

Here the din was deafening. But through 
it pierced a thin thrust of sound — the shrill 
shriek of the soldier as his affrighted gaze 
beheld the chaos now revealed. David gave 
no conscious attention to the man^s cry, but 
somehow it seemed lilce an echo from his 
own emotion as he stared aghast at the 
spectacle of the river in its rage. 

It was as if the stream had suddenly gone 
mad, and wallowed in an insensate fury, yet 
was subtly aware of its own crazed condi- 
tion, and sought to flee from this, its torture 
chamber, out into the distance, where the 
sane peace of the valley waited with smiling 
welcome. The rocky floor of the rift through 
which the river tore fell away in a slope so 
steep that the torrent seemed rather to leap 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 83 

than glide. And the course of the stream 
was roughly meandering. The cliffs, too, 
were jagged, worn to uncouth shapes by the 
buffetings of the waves, ridged and furrowed, 
here wath prongs like the tusks of some fero- 
cious monster, avid to rend and devour, there 
with eroded grottoes, dim and mysterious, 
within which the baffled waters whispered 
and moaned. But the chief danger spots 
were where rocks reared their crests in 
steadfast resistance to the endless batter- 
ing of the river. Each protruding point, 
though itself veiled from view, was made 
known by white sheen of spray from the 
water shattering against it. Others, too, 
there were, which, though without such warn- 
ing of their presence, were none the less 
deadly — ^those that did not quite clear the 
surface, but lay beneath in ambush to destroy. 
The skiff plunged downward with the 
flood. It rocked perilously under the pound- 
ing of opposing currents. The two men were 
forced to cling with all their strength to the 
gunwales, to avoid being carried into the 
river's hungry maw. The instinct of self- 
preservation made them hold fast with des- 
perate energy to the frail support that alone 



84 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

lay between them and destruction in the rabid 
coil of waters. But reason forbade any ex- 
pectation that their respite could endure for 
more than a few flitting moments. 

The boat reeled under a sudden vicious 
blow. As it careened, one side scraped 
against an outthrust of rock. The little 
craft shuddered at the contact like a living 
thing, but there was no pause in the onward 
rush. David gasped in relief as he saw that 
no injury had been wrought. He wondered 
dully how long it would be before the com- 
ing of the crash that must mean the end of 
all things. Already the clothes of both men 
were wringing wet. The skiff was half -filled 
by fallen spray. The boat veered violently 
to the left, missing the cliff by a hand's 
breadth. It was caught in an eddy and spun 
dizzily for what seemed a long time. In 
reality it was no more than the fraction of 
a second. Then again it leaped downward. 
It fled like a sentient thing, swerving this 
way and that to dodge the lethal rocks. It 
came to David's mind that now the chief 
turmoil was behind them. A flame of hope 
kindled in him. His eyes roved the canyon 
before him and he saw that the cliffis were 



THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 85 

less towering, more broken. The place was 
visibly lightening* And there could be no 
mistake : the bedlam of the river was dimin- 
ishing. Yes, surely, there could be no mis- 
take: the end of the rapids was at hand. 
The flame of hope in David's breast blazed 
high. 

The skiff hesitated, quivering like a 
wounded thing. Its bottom rasped over a 
toothed surface of hidden stone. A great 
mass of boiling water drove against it, as it 
lay wavering, half-capsized. The force of 
the impact hurled the boat aloft into the air 
as if it had been a feather. It descended in 
a long arc and fell full on an immobile, piti- 
less bulk of rock, which crushed it instantly, 
smashed it into tiny fragments, which went 
swirling and dancing away on the tide like 
thistledown before the gale. The crash of 
the riven boat filled David's ears. He felt 
himself locked fast in the embrace of the 
river, felt himself dragged forward, down- 
ward. A pain like fire burned through his 
brain — and consciousness ceased. 



CHAPTER Vin 

THE greatest mysteries are not those 
conceived by the fiction-makers. The 
mysteries that have to do with things actual 
are the most fascinating and the most baffling 
—when there can be no certain solution. 
Plato, twenty-odd centuries ago, wrote a few 
words concerning the lost Atlantis, Through- 
out those ages the learned have sought with 
all diligence to prove the verity amid a vast 
jumble of speculations over the fate of a 
vanished continent. They have searched in 
vain. To-day, as always, that bit of world 
history remains enticing, elusive, unknown. 
There was the Man in the Iron Mask. He 
is the one utterly unrecognized personage 
in civilization's record. A great novelist 
portrayed him, and offered an explanation 
of his identity. There have been other ex- 
planations of that identity, ingenious and 
excellent every one. The only flaw is that 
the various theories presented are totally 

86 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 87 

irreconcilable. As a matter of fact, the 
mystery of the Man in the Mask remains 
still pathetic and dreadful — and entrancing. 
So, too, the mystery of a lost colony ; smnmed 
in a single word, Croatan— of which word no 
man knows the source or the significance. 

The mystery is none the less absorbing in 
that it has to do with folk of our own blood, 
dwelling in our own land. 

Sir Walter Ealeigh sent no less than three 
unfruitful expeditions to Eoanoke Island, at 
the junction of Albemarle and Pahnico 
Sounds. This land of Virginia seemed in- 
deed one flowing with milk and honey, and 
there was every reason to believe that a 
colony here would flourish exceedingly. The 
woods were alive with game, the waters 
teemed with fish, the rocks in the sounds 
bore oysters in inexhaustible supply, the soU 
was extraordinarily fertile. The third ex- 
pedition brought colonists for a permanent 
settlement. There were men, women and 
children. Houses were built, clearings were 
made and crops were planted. There was 
not a qualm of foreboding on the part of 
any when the ships set sail for England^ to 
retum in a year's time with supplies. It 



88 THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 

was in this colony on Roanoke Island that 
Virginia Dare was bom — ^first white child 
bom in America. 

There came troublous times in England. 
The return of the ships was delayed for 
three years. When at last the little fleet 
sailed into the island harbor, officers and 
men alike were amazed. They had expected 
the colonists to come swarming in welcome 
of the returning vessels after the long period 
of isolation from the rest of the world. In- 
stead, not a single person was anywhere 
visible. The houses of the community stood 
with closed doors. Investigation only deep- 
ened the puzzle presented by the situation. 
The place was wholly deserted. The houses 
were carefully searched, but there was no 
trace of recent occupancy in any of them. 
It was plain that the dwellings had been de- 
serted, and for a long time. Nowhere was a 
hint given to tell the story of this strange 
disappearance. There were no signs of com- 
bat, such as might have appeared had the 
colonists been slaughtered by Indians. There 
was nothing to suggest that starvation had 
destroyed the little band. No cluster of 
rudely marked graves proclaimed an inva- 



THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 89 

sion by virulent disease. There was in 
truth absolutely no clue from which to de- 
duce a reason for the weird thing that had 
befallen. 

No clue — save one. 

Near the landing stage a tall pole had been 
erected. Its conspicuousness gave it signi- 
ficance. A word was carved on it; a single 
word. That word was: 

**Croatan.'' 

Such is the mystery. None knows the fate 
of the colony that disappeared so strangely. 
One may only surmise as to what occurred. 
And surmise here, in view of all the facts, 
has small justification in any aspect of the 
matter. The mystery as to how and whither 
these men, women and children went forth 
from their homes may be indicated in that 
one word, Croatan. But that word itself 
too, is a mystery— fit symbol, if symbol it be, 
of the folk who left it. 

Centuries afterward, that portion of Vir- 
ginia which was to become the interior of 
the two Carolinas began to be settled by 
hardy and industrious adventurers. Into the 
tier of counties situated between the Lumber 
Eiver and the Yadkin, contiguous to the 



90 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

South Carolina border, came the advance 
guard from a body of Scotch pioneers. Find- 
ing soil and climate to their liking, they sum- 
moned their fellows, and made a permanent 
settlement. 

They found, however, that in and about 
the section which they had selected they were 
not, after all, the first comers. Here was 
already established a flourishing community. 
The people that constituted it was a strange 
sort. The race showed an amalgamation 
that was unique. These individuals were dis- 
tinctly unlike the neighboring tribes of Bed 
Men, even though they displayed some racial 
characteristics in common with the Chero- 
kees, whom they most resembled. They 
spoke the English language; they had Eng- 
lish usages; they wore clothes fashioned 
after English custom ; their homes were sub- 
stantial log houses; they kept droves of 
ponies and herds of cattle and flocks of 
sheep. The men displayed good physiques; 
the women were comely. Perjiaps the one 
thing that most differentiated them from the 
Indians was the fact that the heaviest labor 
was performed by the men instead of the 
women. They had little to tell of a definite 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 91 

kind as to their origin. The familiar myth de- 
clared that they had come from a long way 
off. There was evidence of an Indian strain 
in the blood from the cheekbones, which 
while not extremely prominent were higher 
than the average among whites. A final 
peculiarity was found in the nomenclature. 
Many members of the tribe had English 
names. And these names were identical with 
those of the lost colonists I 

On the face of it, there are reasons a plenty 
why the members of this tribe should call 
themselves the Croatans. Anyhow, their 
neighbors have given them the name, and 
they have accepted it. What strange, per- 
haps horrible, history lies hidden here, we 
cannot know, we may not guess with any pre- 
cision. And, since there is no definite evi- 
dence to the contrary, we may best take this 
people at its own estimate as comprising the 
sole descendants of the colony that aban- 
doned Roanoke Island in a fashion so inex- 
plicable more than three hundred years ago. 

In the centuries that elapsed after the 
mingling of the blood of whites and red men 
in the Croatans, the tribe passed the years 
in leisurely, migratory living on the main- 



92 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

land. Thus they grew to know all the coastal 
region. They became familiar with every 
detail of the Atlantic plain. They were at 
home on the savannahs that reached levelly 
toward the sea, and they knew the innu- 
merable secret trails that penetrated the laby- 
rinths of the swamps, where the treacherous 
ooze steamed beneath canopies of funereal 
cypress, garlanded with Spanish moss in 
endless drooping festoons. They fattened 
their larders with the game to be found 
among the open forests of yellow pine spread 
over the coastal plain. They came to inti- 
mate acquaintance with the higher ground of 
the Piedmont plateau, where their rifles took 
toll of the creatures that harbored on slopes 
thickly timbered with oak and elm and hick- 
ory. They even pressed their hunting up 
higher into the Brushy Mountains of the 
Blue Ridge, where hard wood and conifers 
mingled. 

Wherever the Croatans made their camp, 
they were formerly rather undesirable as 
neighbors. They were a people apart. All 
others were by way of being their natural 
enemies, and, as such, legitimate prey, to be 
plundered as opportunity served. The chief 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 93 

pastime of the men was in forays against the 
peace, property and prosperity of honest 
settlers who were so unfortunate as to excite 
the cupidity of the lawless band. The sparsely 
settled region was powerless to protect it- 
self from such depredations. The strongest 
force must have failed to track them through 
the swamps, where they alone could pass 
safely by quaking bog and slimy morass. 
Their camp was always adequately prepared 
to resist attack, and could easily have re- 
pelled any siege that' might possibly be 
brought against it. 

So the Croatans lived and thrived through 
the centuries and their consciences were not 
a whit troubled by their thievery, for in- 
deed they thought no moral wrong of it. 
They regarded themselves, in a somewhat 
vague, but very practical way, as overlords 
of the country round about, with all the 
rights of suzerainty. 

Chief Lowrie built his camp not far from 
the Yadkin Eiver and close to the border of 
South Carolina. The outbreak of the Civil 
War was not of supreme importance to him 
or to his people. Some of the Croatans were 
loyal to their Southland; but the fact that 



94 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

the nation was in the throes of mortal strife 
distressed many of them not at all. On the 
contrary, it caused rejoicing, since the draft- 
ing of men to the colors made raiding easier. 
On the very day that David and the soldier 
gave themselves so recklessly to the merci- 
less fnry of the rapids, Chief Lowrie sum- 
moned to his presence for a very serious 
conversation his only child, the Princess 
Elizabeth. 



CHAPTEE IX 

THE princess was in her bedroom, em- 
broidering an intricate design in beads 
on a moccasin of finest buckskin, when she 
heard her father's call. She wondered a 
little at the summons, which had a peremp- 
tory ring not usual in his speech to her. She 
got up obediently, laid aside her work, and 
went out into the living-room of the cabin 
where her father awaited her. 

This room was a spacious one, running 
the whole length of the cabin, with two 
smaller chambers opening from it on either 
side. The huge fireplace with a kettle of 
stew simmering from the crane indicated 
that the kitchen was here, while the rudely 
fashioned table spread with oilcloth showed 
that the place served as a dining-room also. 
Other furnishings proved it to be the family 
sitting-room. The composite character of 
the place was revealed in the orderly array 
of shining copper and iron cooking utensils 

05 



96 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

hung upon the walls, in the display of coarse 
crockery arranged on a set of shelves, in 
the high desk and smaller table, on which 
stood a candle before a row of well-worn 
books. 

Chief Lowrie had been oiling his rifle. 
Now, as his daughter entered the room, he 
set the weapon against the wall, and from 
his place in a heavy armchair regarded her 
gravely, yet with manifest pride and tender- 
ness. And Elizabeth returned his gaze 
levelly. She stared at him half-curiously, 
as if she felt somehow that this interview 
was fraught with a significance beyond the 
ordinary. It appeared to her that her father 
was a little strange in his manner, his bear- 
ing more authoritative than that to which 
she was accustomed in his relation to her. 

The chief of the Croatans was in truth a 
striking figure. He was a man of much more 
than the average height, and the length of 
his body made him appear so even when 
sitting. He was broad-shouldered, too, 
evidently the possessor of an exceptional 
physique. At fifty, his form had coarsened, so 
that he had lost something of the elasticity 
and swiftness of his movements. But the 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 97 

great strength remained undiminished. It 
was a strength that had made him able to 
rule his people by might as well as by the right 
of inheritance, for there was no man in the 
tribe to stand against him, nor ever had been. 
His head and face, too, were those of a 
natural ruler, massive and powerful. His 
iron-gray hair, still unthinned by the years, 
waved a little, and the abundant locks gave 
dignity. The features were of a Roman 
type, haughty and rugged, usually a little 
cruel, a little savage. 

But there was nothing either cruel or 
savage in their expression now as he con- 
templated his daughter. On the contrary, 
the sloe-black eyes glowed with affection as 
they scrutinized the girl from beneath shaggy 
brows. 

The daughter was assuredly one to delight 
a father's heart. She was taller than most 
women. Evidently she had inherited a share 
of her father's physical vigor. She stood 
straight and pliant, and the unconscious pose 
revealed an exuberant energy. She had the 
strength that comes from muscles of steel 
sheathed in the soft, yet firm flesh of a 
woman. For she had inherited not only the 



98 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

Btrength of her father, but also the beauty 
and charm of the mother who had died to 
give her birth. At eighteen, she had reached 
full development of her womanly grace. She 
wore a one-piece homespun gown, which 
reached just below her knees. A thong of 
deer-skin belted it at the waist. The homely 
garb became her well, since it displayed the 
exquisite lines of a figure gently rounded, 
slender and lithe. There was a suggestion 
of the princess in the dainty feet, trimly 
shod in high moccasins. But the quality of 
her found its best display in her face, which 
was not merely striking for its delicate love- 
liness, but for its intelligence and nobility. 
In some remarkable manner the slight ac- 
centuation of the cheekbones increased the 
effect, as did the rich bronze tint that under- 
lay the red and white of her complexion. 
There was firmness in the rather generous 
mouth, and with it tenderness, perhaps a 
subtle prophecy of passion. The slightly 
arched nose gave her the look of a patrician, 
and it harmonized well with the great black 
eyes, set wide apart. The brow seemed now 
a trifle too high for womanly perfection, for 
the heavy masses of her hair were drawn 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 99 

away from it and gathered in two heavy 
braids which fell over the gently swelling 
bosom to her waist. 

She went forward slowly, nntil she was 
immediately before her father. There she 
stood sedately awaiting his pleasure. 

After a moment of hesitation, he addressed 
her. His voice was a little harsh, but not 
unkind. It indicated that his feelings were 
stirred more deeply than they usually were, 
that this was an occasion of peculiar im- 
portance, in which she, the daughter whom 
he loved, was intimately concerned. 

**Ye'r' eighteen year old, ^Liz'beth,*' he 
began. **An' ye'r* a woman grown. An' 
ye'r' my darter — '* he smiled wryly — ^'^the 
nearest thing t' a son an' heir what IVe got. 
I ain't complainin' edzackly 'cause ye ain't 
a boy. But, 'cause I ain't got a son t' take 
my place as chief o' the tribe, why, ye see, 
'Liz'beth, hit's up t' ye t' take fer yer man' 
the one what's fitten t' rule the Croatans in 
my stid, when I'm dead an' gone. Ye un- 
derstan', don't ye, gait" He waited for an 
answer, surveying his daughter with somber 
eyes. 

A trace of trouble showed in the lines 



709494A 



100 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

of the princess* face. She did indeed tm- 
derstand perfectly the significance of her 
father's words. In a crude way, both the 
father and daughter felt themselves subject 
to the principle of noblesse oblige. The pride 
of birth was strong in both of them. Chief 
Lowrie often boasted to his daughter con- 
cerning his high birth. He claimed descent 
from the chiefs of the red men, and, too, he 
vaunted a white lineage, which went back to 
Virginia Dare in this country and to her 
forebears in the old world. The girl had ac- 
cepted his vainglorious pretensions without 
question. She regarded herself as the prog- 
eny of a great ancestry, and, as such, hedged 
in with responsibilities due to her position. 
She was well aware that since she was 
the only child of the chieftain, the continu- 
ance of the blood must come from her mar- 
riage. She had no thought of revolt against 
her father's decree, which seemed to her in- 
evitable under the circumstances. Rather, 
she welcomed it as a duty to be done. Never- 
theless, now that the crisis approached, she 
found herself reluctant. She was not with- 
out her maidenly dreams. The father, full 
of an inordinate pride in his beautiful daugh- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 101 

ter, had sent her to the seminary at Fayette- 
ville, where she had completed a course that 
gave her an excellent education. She had 
been fond of reading. Romances thrilled her. 
In her reveries, she had fancied herself a 
princess who awaited the coming of Prince 
Charming to awaken her soul by the touch 
of his lips. That imagined Prince Charming 
was, alas! totally unlike any one of the 
young men among the Croatans. He was 
most unlike Goins, the man next in au- 
thority to her father, in whom the chief 
put most reliance. Now, as she nodded as- 
sent to her father's question, she waited 
imhappily to hear this suitor's name pro- 
nounced. And it came in the chief's next 
utterance. 

**Ye must take Charlie Goins fer yer hus- 
ban*. Thar ain't no two ways about hit. 
'E 's got more gumption than any other feller 
in the tribe. An' 'e's mighty nigh as strong 
as I be. 'E'll be able t' keep 'em in order, 
when I'm done." He cast a eugenic eye over 
his daughter's form. **Yer children orter 
be fust class. Charlie ain't no ravin', tearin' 
beauty t' ketch a gal's eye. I 'low thet 
But 'e's a man, an' thet's the main thing 



102 THE HOMEWAED TEATL 

atter alL We're inbred too damn' much, an' 
thet's the truth. Charlie ain't good enough 
fer ye, 'Liz'beth; but 'e's the best we've got, 
an' thet settles hit. Ye'r' old enough t' be 
wed. Charlie's only been waitin' fer my 
word. I'll give hit t' 'im now. Ye hear?" 
In the father's voice was the ring of patri- 
archal authority. 

The girl bowed her head in meek assent 
to the implied command, though she felt an 
inward shudder of repulsion as the face of 
the man she was destined to marry rose be- 
fore her mental vision. An instinctive de- 
sire at least to postpone this final bestowal 
of herself on one whom she detested caused 
her to speak for the first time since she had 
entered the room. 

* * Give me a few days, to prepare myself. ' ' 
She hesitated, and then went on, almost 
timidly, with a great wistfulness in her tones. 
**It's a — sort of shock, you know." 

**Why, 'Liz'beth, ye ain't s 'prised none, 
be yet" the father exclaimed. 

**No, not surprised, really," the girl ad- 
mitted. **But now that it's come, it's 
a shock just the same, even though I was 
expecting it. I reckon it's just because 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 103 

that's the way girls are/' She smiled placat- 

ingly. 

The chief grunted scornfully. 

*'A11 women's cussed foolishness 1 " he re- 
torted. Then his manner softened. **But 
ye always been a good gal, 'Liz'beth, an' 
thar ain't no sech a 'mighty hurry 'bout yer 
gittin' spliced. The only anxious one, I 
cal'late, is Charlie, an' 'e kin stand hit fer 
a few days — ^leastways 'e'll hev t'." 

The princess smiled radiantly, joyous over 
having achieved her object. 

*'I'U go for a hunting trip," she an- 
nounced. **I'll go at once. I don't want to 
meet Charlie until — afterward. I'll have 
Minnie meet me, and bring rations." 

*'A11 right," came the father's consent, 
and he nodded dismissal. 

The girl's preparations were quickly made. 
They consisted for the most part in donning 
a heavier pair of moccasins, in slinging the 
powder-horn and bullet-pouch over her 
shoulders, in a hurried summons to Minnie, 
her most intimate companion, to whom she 
gave directions to meet her near sundown 
at the secret hunting lodge with supplies. 
These things done, Elizabeth, carrying her 



104 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

small-bore rifle with its octagonal barrel, 
mounted her pony, and rode swiftly toward 
the river, with intent to pass in solitude the 
few free hours that still remained to her of 
maidenhood. 




CHAPTER X 

THE princess followed a trail that led 
to the westward through the forest. 
When she reached a point near the river, she 
left her pony tethered in a thicket, with a 
feed of meal from a bag which had been 
hidden in the underbrush. Then she made 
her way on foot in a southwesterly direction 
until she came to the eastern bluff of the 
Yadkin, at a point near the lower end of the 
rapids. It was here that the hunting lodge 
was located, the whereabouts of which she 
had kept jealously guarded as a secret from 
every one, except her confidante, Minnie, 
Soon after finding the place, the idea of build- 
ing a shelter there had occurred to her, and 
with her friend's aid the task had been ac- 
complished. Chief Lowrie alone knew of the 
existence of the lodge, but even he was ig- 
norant of its precise location. The princess 
was fond of wandering in the wilderness for 
days at a time, and on such occasions usually 

105 



106 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

returned to the lodge at night, where Minnie 
would meet her and bear her company. 

Now she climbed down from the top of the 
bluff, following a rough and precipitous path 
in a rift of the cliff. This brought her to 
a broad ledge, overhung by the hollowed 
rock of the higher cliff. Thus was formed 
a shallow natural cavern, fronting toward 
the west and open on three sides. At either 
end was rude matting, made by the girls 
themselves from woven sedge-grass, sup- 
ported on poles. Protected as it was from 
the north and the east winds, the cavern was 
snug enough for comfort in that mild climate. 
If the night air came chill, there was always 
a brisk fire of pine knots burning on the 
rocky shelf. For the rest, the lodge was 
equipped with two bunks where blankets 
were spread over thick layers of pine needles. 
Deal boards, collected from a pile of drift 
at a bend in the river below, had been nailed 
to a section of stump to make the table. 
Other bits of stump served in lieu of chairs. 
A few cooking utensils completed the furnish- 
ings. 

There would still be many hours before 
sundown and the coming of Minnie. The 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 107 

princess was grateful for this period of soli- 
tude. She felt that she must commune with 
herself searchingly over the change that was 
imminent in her life. Her mood was an ad- 
mixture of melancholy and rebelliousness. 
She was half-frightened at herself for the 
bitterness of her antagonism to the project 
commanded by her duty to her father and 
to her people. 

She laid down the rifle and placed the 
powder-horn and bullet-pouch with it. Then 
she seated herself cross-legged on the level 
stone, and stared up and down over the vast 
and splendid scene. In her ears was the 
roaring of the rapids, but softened by dis- 
tance. Usually, Elizabeth looked long in 
fascinated wonder at the seething waters in 
their ceaseless race past her refuge. The 
power and the strangeness of them never 
failed to excite in her an admiring awe. And 
she loved the majestic, yet peaceful pan- 
orama that was outspread around about. 
Always hitherto a kindred serenity had 
stolen into her soul as she contemplated the 
tranquil beauty of the valley to the south. To- 
day, it was more than ever lovely, for field 
and forest, upland and bottom, were alike 



108 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

gorgeously colored, yet in most delicate har- 
mony of tints, by the autumn air. The girPs 
mood, however, was unsympathetic to the 
gracious charm of nature. Her spirit was 
in turmoil. Her eyes turned inevitably to 
the rioting waters in the canyon. She felt 
within herself a like frantic, though invisible, 
struggle to escape. The near prospect of 
xmion with the man whom her father had 
selected appalled her. The coarse-featured 
face of the fellow rose in her memory, and 
she recoiled from it in loathing. She re- 
called how once he had tried to kiss her — 
recalled, too, the nausea his touch had 
caused. She had sought to evade even his 
gaze, affronted by its leering attempt at in- 
timacy. She realized that the surrender of 
herself into this man^s keeping would tax 
her to the utmost of her strength. She had 
no thought of resistance. Her ideal of con- 
duct demanded this sacrifice of herself. But 
she understood that she would have need of 
all her will to go through with the perform- 
ance of her duty graciously. She thanked 
God that her father had accorded this inter- 
val in which to prepare herself. She would 
have need of it to the full. 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 109 

For a long time the girl sat there, brood- 
ing over a future that appeared altogether 
dismal and repellent. She was distraught 
with apprehensions concerning the life that 
stretched before her. Her natural intelli- 
gence had been broadened by education. She 
could not doubt that this union with a man 
whom she so detested would mean unbroken 
misery. Yet, she had no choice, as it seemed 
to her, save to accept such sorrow for her 
lot. Thus only could she fulfill the obliga- 
tion imposed upon her by birth as daughter 
of the chief of the Croatans. She sighed 
gently in a tender sadness of renunciation 
at thought of the ideal man of her dreams. 
Him she could never kaow. She could never 
thrill to his touch, never bask in the ardor 
of his glances, never yield herself to him in 
lovers' raptures. Instead, there would be 
only and always Goins, bestial and vicious, 
with the gorilla-like arms to clasp her, with 
the thick, loose lips to Mss her. She shook in 
a spasm of anticipatory dread. The tears 
of a self-pity welled from the limpid eyes, 
and trickled slowly over the velvet curve of 
the cheeks. And ever she stared downward 
at the mad riot of the canyon 's waters. 



110 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

She saw the skiff as it was swept into the 
last, most furious stage of the rapids. She 
uttered an ejaculation of horror as she 
realized that the tiny craft, reeling and rush- 
ing with the raging stream, carried two men. 
It seemed certain that they were doomed to 
destruction in the cauldron where rock and 
water battled so tmceasingly against each 
other, but joined their forces to annihilate 
any that came between. Her spirit grew 
faint with fear for the two hapless victims of 
the river. She watched the craft ^s wild 
flight in a trance of terror. It was a recur- 
ring miracle second by second that it still 
remained afloat despite the constant assaults 
on every side. For a moment she even ven- 
tured to hope that, after aU, the final miracle 
might come to pass, that the boat might 
plunge unscathed into the pool at the rapid ^s 
foot, and bear its freight alive out of the 
jaws of death. 

The hope was killed almost in the instant 
that gave it birth. Aghast, she saw the skiff 
rise high in air as if driven up by a dyna- 
mite charge. She saw it swing forward in 
the long arc of its fall back to the water. She 
saw it crash down upon the rock, saw it dis- 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi HI 

integrate before her eyes, saw its occupants 
in the grip of the river. She saw one man 
swept by an eddy toward the wall on her 
side of the canyon. She saw that he was 
apparently uninjured, for he was swimming 
in a desperate effort not to be carried away 
into the resistless grasp of the channel cur- 
rent. She kuew that there was a chance of 
life for him, since the cliffs were much broken 
at this point, so that, could he attain to the 
river's edge, he might find a way to safety. 

But that other I The girl 's heart stood still 
in dread. It seemed impossible that he could 
win through. In another moment, a cry of 
pity broke from her lips. She could not 
doubt that the man was marked for death. 
Her eyes caught the white blur of his face 
as it gleamed for an instant and was gone, 
engulfed by the torrent. He had made no 
struggle. It was clear that he had been ren- 
dered helpless by some injury, had been left 
the toy of the merciless stream. 

Suddenly, a new thought broke the par- 
alysis of fear that had fallen on Elizabeth. 
It was the thought of rescue. The possibility 
was too remote for credence, yet it sptirred 
her to action. She did not pause to consider 



112 THE HOMEWARD TEAIL 

her course. The single means that offered 
a chance of success flashed on her conscious- 
ness. She moved with swiftness and preci- 
sion, as if carrying out a carefully considered 
plan. She sprang to her feet, and went hur- 
rying down the cliffs toward the river. 

The route she took was one perilous to 
the careful and plodding climber. It prom- 
ised to prove fatal to one who fled at such 
reckless speed, skirting ledges that gave 
barely foothold, leaping from shelf to shelf 
where any slip meant death. But anxiety 
drove the girl ever faster, regardless of the 
danger. She knew the need of haste — ^the 
vital need. She must reach the base of the 
cliffs before the body of the stricken man 
was borne past the bend in the river a little 
way below. The winding of the stream gave 
her a slight advantage. There was, how- 
ever, no time for painstaking care in the 
descent, if she would not be too late. So she 
darted downward, undeterred by risks that 
seemed certain destruction. It was only the 
splendid strength of her and the perfect co- 
ordination of eye and muscle, and, above 
all, the brave spirit of her that enabled her 
to cover the precarious trail unharmed. 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 113 

At the very end, disaster almost over- 
whelmed her. When she was a score of yards 
above the river, whence a rough, steep slope 
ran to the water, a fragment of rock gave 
way under her light footfall. She stumbled, 
lost her footing for an instant, and was 
thrown from her balance, though she did not 
fall. Nevertheless, she was compelled to 
continue on downward at increased speed, 
powerless to check her headlong career over 
the sharply slanting litter of broken rocks. 
She went leaping in great strides, each 
longer than the one before. At the river's 
brim, she sprang high, and was carried out 
clear of the bowlders that edged the stream. 
She fell uninjured in the pool formed here 
by a backset of the water within the half- 
encircling arm of rock that was thrust for- 
ward from the cliff. 

Elizabeth knew the place well. In the air, 
she had turned bodily to face downstream. 
While still immersed, she began swimming 
with every bit of her strength toward the 
rocky point just below, which bordered that 
side of the pool. So quick was her effort, 
and so sturdy, that the avaricious hold of 
the water was powerless against her. In a 



114 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

moment, she had reached the reef, and 
clambered out upon it, uninjured. 

The girl could not pause to think of her 
own escape. Her sole concern was over the 
man whom the river had claimed for its own. 
Was she in timef She advanced to the 
farthest point of rock lying above the sur- 
face. Beyond her the stone showed dimly 
a little way under water. If the body were 
swept just here, it would move a little more 
slowly, being rolled over and over along the 
rocky shelf. Here, if anywhere, was the 
solitary opportunity to effect a rescue. But 
was she in time t Elizabeth straightened and 
gazed with straining eyes over the tortuous 
length of pounding waters upstream. 

Almost instantly, she glimpsed him. 

The face vanished, reappeared yards lower 
down. Elizabeth knew that the moment had 
come. It was now, or forever too late. The 
one poor chance for this stranger ^s life was 
in her hands. She nerved herself for the 
ordeal. The body would be floundering past 
her in another instant. She half -crouched, 
tense, expectant, a-quiver with eagerness. 

The body was swept into view. It came 
tumbling — as she had known it would — 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 115 

through the shallows over the rocky shelf. 
It was there before her now, ready to her 
grasp. Her heart jumped, then missed a 
beat. The body would pass just beyond her 
reach. 

She did not hesitate in the least, but 
stepped into the race of smooth water that 
slid over the submerged rock. 

The slithering quiet of the surface masked 
a treacherous fierceness below. The current 
clamped like a vice on her leg and pulled 
her down. But, as she fell, her left hand 
lunged forward — caught a grip in the man^s 
long hair, and held. Her other hand, when 
she struck the water, quested mldly for a 
hold on the slimy stone. She was swept 
along a short distance, then her fingers 
found their opportunity in a tiny rift. The 
fingers clutched convulsively. She held her* 
self against the savage dragging of the 
stream. She was able to lift her head above 
the water, and to take a long breath. She 
rested a moment to prepare for the final con- 
test. The beating of the current against the 
man's inert form wrenched the arm that held 
him, so that the pain of it was almost in- 
tolerable. The strain on the other arm was 



116 THE HOMEWARD TRAH. 

steadier, but the angxiish from it was even 
greater. It seemed to her that she had no 
strength left for any slightest movement. 
Nevertheless, she meant to try still further, 
to the utmost, for her life and for his — ^if it 
yet remained in him. 

Presently, she bestirred herself to action. 
Very cautiously, she moved one foot over 
the slippery stone. The toes within the 
flexible moccasins sought a fissure or a pro- 
jection to which to cling. And, very soon, 
a cleft place offered a safe foothold. Then, 
the search was continued with the other foot 
— successfully, at last. Still moving with the 
utmost care, she got to her knees. The pull 
of the current on the body was such that she 
could not flex the muscles of the arm that 
held it, and her suffering from the strain 
was almost more than she could bear, but 
she set her teeth, and endured it. The tax 
on the other arm was relaxed, since the feet 
had come to its support This partial relief 
comforted her, and cheered her to renewed 
endeavor. She secured a safer hand-hold. 
So, with tedious slowness, in physical tor- 
ment from the buffeting of the current 
against her and against the burden she bore. 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 117 

Elizabeth crawled to the bant There, in a 
last frenzied ontpnt of waning strength, she 
hauled the body of the man after her, clear 

of the river's clutch. She did not know 

i 

whether he was alive or dead. For the mo- 
ment, she hardly cared. Beside the twisted, 
sodden figure of the man, she sprawled in 
collapse, now that the ordeal was ended, and 
lay in a stupor of fatigue. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE princess moved slightly and moaned 
like a hurt child She remembered 
dolly the man she had seen in the rapids, 
her run down the cliffs, her fight against 
the voracious river. It all seemed to have 
happened ages and ages ago, in some other 
strange lifetime. Then, in the twinkling of 
an eye, her consciousness cleared. She 
recollected every detail distinctly. She sat 
erect with quick energy, though the motion 
of her stiffened muscles was torture. She 
looked down at the still form by her side. 
Was he dead! Had her fierce struggle in 
his behalf been all in vain! 

She stoically disregarded her own physical 
misery, and set herself to complete the work 
she had begun — ^if indeed it were not already 
too late. She bent over the body, and thrust 
her hand within the bosom. To her joy, she 
detected a beating of the heart, feeble and 

broken, but unmistakable none the less. New 

lis 



THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 119 

strength flowed into her from this enconr- 
agementy and she entered on the task of 
restoration with hopeful vigor. She turned 
the man on his f ace^ with his head down the 
slope, in order to clear his lungs of the water 
he had swallowed. Then she turned him 
back, and seized his arms and worked them 
to stimulate the breathing. She disregarded 
the cut on his head^ which had doubtless 
stunned him. The immersion in the stream 
had kept it open, but now the blood was 
clotting and only a little flowed sluggishly 
from the gash. The wound must await its 
turn. Death from drowning was the vital 
periL 

There came a choking gasp from the un- 
conscious man; his body was racked by a 
convulsive shudder. The girl hastily pulled 
him about, so that his head was on the higher 
ground. This done, she stood erect, and 
looked down into his face. She was thrilled 
to see that the eyes were open and gazing 
dazedly up at her. In the same second, the 
lids fell, and remained fast shut. Elizabeth 
bent close and watched, and saw the rise and 
fall of the chest in the rhythm of breathing* 
Triumph filled her. She alone had fought 



120 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

for this man, and she had brought him alive 
back from the very gates of death. 

^'Hi, there !'^ 

Elizabeth looked up in astonishment, as 
there fell on her ears this hail in a high 
nasal voice. She saw on a ledge some rods 
above her a man in garments which, though 
they clung to him dripping wet, were plainly 
several sizes too large for the emaciated 
frame. The face, too, was gaunt, but its 
thinness was half -concealed by a short growth 
of stiff red whiskers. The hatless head 
showed a thatch of like ruddy color, made 
sleek for the moment by water. The girl 
knew that this must be the other occupant 
of the boat. The fact was confirmed in the 
fellow ^s next words. 

"YouVe got him!'^ There was great ex- 
citement in his tone. **Is he alive! '^ 

The princess nodded. 

*'Come on down and help,'' she com- 
manded. 

She studied the man curiously as he hur- 
ried down the descent toward her. While 
he was yet some distance from her, she spoke 
with a singularly impersonal note of disdain. 

*'You^re a damn^ Yank\'' She was quite 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 121 

unaware that she used the profane adjective, 
so familiar had it become on the lips of those 
about her. *'Is he onef Her glance went 
to the face of the unconscious youth lying 
beside her. 

Morris shook his head in violent dissent. 

**He's a Johnny Eeb, all right/ ^ he de- 
clared. **He saved me from the river when 
the bloodhounds was after me, and so he sort 
of had me on his hands. But there ^s more to 
it than that, ^ ' he added, as he came to a halt 
by the girl. **It's a long story. *' 

'*No time for it now,^' Elizabeth stated, 
with cold authority. ** We've got to get him 
up the cUffs in a hurry, where he can be dry 
and warm. ' ' 

Morris cast a doubtful eye up the way 
along which he had just come. 

**That Salisbury prison kinder took the 
tuck out of me,'' he admitted. **I'm too 
darn' puny for any use." 

**I 'low you can help some," was the an- 
swer. * * Cut two birch poles about eight foot 
long." 

** Hain't got any knife," Morris objected 
**They didn't leave us anything there in the 
stockade. ' ' 



122 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

Elizabeth bent over the form of the man 
she had rescued, and searched the pockets. 
She uttered an ejaculation of satisfaction as 
she drew out a big clasp-knife. 

* * There I ' ' she exclaimed, and tossed it to 
the Union soldier, who caught it and straight- 
way set about the task she had imposed. 

When, after a little, he returned with 
the required lengths of sapling, the girl was 
in readiness with David ^s coat, which she 
had removed, and some strips of worn can- 
vas, which she had brought from the heap 
of drift at the edge of the inset. With Mor- 
ris' aid, she buttoned the coat over the two 
poles, and, to make it more secure, cut slits 
in it, and laced the two sides firmly together 
with the latches from her moccasins. The 
pieces of canvas were bound on, to increase 
the length of the supporting part in this im- 
provised litter. She added also the belt from 
her waist at a point where it would support 
the body at the knees. To complete the work 
to her satisfaction, she removed the moun- 
taineer's suspenders, and made a mesh of 
them for a head-rest. 

**Now help me lift him,'' came the curt 
order. She herself took the body under the 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 123 

arms, and carried most of the weight, as 
they raised it and placed it on the narrow 
litter. 

**I'll take the foot,'^ she explained. *'It 
will be heavier going up, and I^m stronger 
than yon. Go on down the bank a little way. 
You ^11 see a path up that's easier. ^^ 

Morris seized the poles, and went forward 
obediently. With the girl's voice guiding 
him, he duly turned into the trail that led 
upward. It was an arduous ascent. It taxed 
the strength of the girl on whom most of 
the burden rested. It was almost too much 
for the debilitated fugitive, whose weakness 
had been increased greatly by the experiences 
of the day. But, with many rests on the 
way, the work was at last achieved, and the 
summit of the bluff attained. Afterward, it 
was a simple matter to carry the litter along 
the comparatively level top, to the point 
above the hunting lodge, and thus down the 
short descent to the cavern itself. As they 
came to the place, Morris cried out in sur-. 
prise, and uttered numerous questions, to 
which the girl gave absolutely no heed. 

**Help me get him into this bunk,'* she 
ordered the wondering soldier. When this 



124 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

had been accomplished^ she brought a flask 
of peach brandy from the stores in the lodge^ 
and with some difficulty managed to make 
David swallow a little. *'Now you get his 
clothes off, and rub him dry, and wrap him 
up well in the blanket/' She dropped a 
towel on the bunk, and turned away. **I'll 
get some water to bathe his wound,'' she 
added. She took up a tin pail and went out. 

When Morris had done, he issued from the 
cavern, and found her waiting for him. She 
gave him instructions for building a fire of 
pine knots at the entrance, and then went 
within. She bathed the injured man's head 
with the cold water from the spring, and 
bandaged it neatly. Afterward, she gave 
him more of the brandy, which he now took 
readily, whereat the girl sighed in relief. 

Morris came and stood looking down at 
David with an expression of deep solicitude 
on his homely face. 

**Oughter have a doctor," he remarked 
gloomily. 

But Elizabeth moved her head in negation 
that seemed strangely emphatic. As a mat- 
ter of fact, she already felt a proprietary 
interest in this bit of flotsam which she had 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 125 

plucked from the river, and she meant to 
make the saving of him her own exclusive 
work. She resented the soldier *s suggestion 
from an instinct of jealousy lest any other 
should interfere between her and the com- 
pletion of her work. 

'*This cut on his head isn't very bad/' she 
said ; and her voice was a little sharp. * *I Ve 
cleaned it and done it up. Pretty soon I'll 
have some salve to put on it/' She glanced 
toward the westering sun, which was now 
close to the horizon, and knew that Minnie 
would speedily be at her service to send for 
the supplies needed in the sick man's behalf. 
She turned her eyes to David, and noted the 
slight dew of sweat on his forehead. **No," 
she concluded decisively, *'he won't have any 
chill now, and that's what I was most afraid 
of. No, he won't need any doctor. ^e'U 
nurse him between us." 

Morris, more than ever bewildered, choked 
back the questions that crowded to his lips. 
There was much concerning which he would 
have liked to ask, but somehow the manner 
of this extraordinary girl, so beautiful, so 
dominant, and so efficient, halted the expres- 
sion of his inquisitiveness. Without ventur- 



126 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

ing any further remark, he went out of the 
cavern, and squatted on the far side of the 
fire, close by the flames, to dry his clothes, 
and incidentally to ponder in great perplexity 
the remarkable situation with which he found 
himself confronted. 

It was perhaps half an hour later, and the 
cavern was beginning to fiU with the shadows 
of dusk, when at last David stirred feebly. 
His eyelids unclosed, and he gazed up dream- 
ily into the face bending over so near to 
his own. There was only a lazy contentment 
in his regard at first. But, presently, this 
vanished. The eyes narrowed a little and 
grew brighter. Amazement glowed in them. 
His lips moved, but the words were inaudible. 
The girl put her ear close to his mouth, and 
listened, and heard the whisper: 

**Whoareyouf'^ 



CHAPTER XII 

THE answering voice came in a music that 
was inexpressibly soothing to the lad 
who listened. The sound of it charmed his 
spirit, though the words so softly spoken 
scarcely penetrated his consciousness. 

*'I am Elizabeth, the daughter of Chief 
Lowrie, of the Croatans.'^ 

*'How did I git here! Where is this place, 
anyhow f ' ^ David demanded. He was anxious 
to know something concerning his surround- 
ings and the events that had brought him 
hither ; but he was more anxious to hear again 
the melodious cadences of that voice. 

**Tou were in our country — ^you and your 
companion — when you were wrecked in the 
rapids. We brought you here as the near- 
est place. ^* 

David *s eyes left the girPs face for the 
first time. He looked about the chamber in- 
quiringly. 

**Wef he questioned. 

127 



128 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

**The man who was witli you helped me to 
bring you up here/' she responded. "The 
Yankee soldier from the prison," she added^ 
answering the young man's puzzled glance. 

David's face cleared. 

"Oh, Morris I'' he exclaimed. Full mem- 
ory rushed back on him. He remembered 
that last instant of consciousness, when the 
waters had closed over him, and there had 
come the stabbing pain through his head. 
"Morris escaped thenf 

"Yes.'* 

"Somethin* must have hit me on the 
head," David murmured, more to himself 
than to the girl. 

But she heard and answered him. 

"Your head was cut on a rock. I have 
bound it up. It will be sore, but it's nothing 
very serious." 

David put his hand to his head and touched 
the bandage gingerly, wincing as he did so. 

"I low ye've been plumb kind t* me. Miss 
Elizabeth." He smiled in warm gratitude, 
which was not the less because of the radiant 
loveliness of the face into which he looked. 
He experienced a thrill of pleasure in this 
intimate association with a woman unlike 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 129 

any he had ever known. She bore herself 
with a dignity that was unfamiliar in his ex- 
perience, but had in it something singularly 
attractive. In this case, the effect was sof- 
tened by the beauty of her face and by the 
gentle kindliness of her manner toward hun. 
He felt himself in the presence of a being 
superior to any he had ever known before. 
Yet, she was in no wise repellent or aloof. 
Bather, she displayed toward him an amia- 
bility at once maternal and tender. The fact 
that she had wrought the rescue of this man 
aroused in her of itself a profound interest, 
and this interest she unconsciously revealed. 
Its effect on the object of it was immediate 
and pervasive. Though he did not as yet 
know that he was indebted to the girl for his 
life, he already felt drawn to her with an 
emotional intensity that was startling, yet 
delightful. Under her direction, he drank 
again of the brandy, and soon was able to 
speak aloud, though weakly. 

Morris, from his place outside beyond the 
fire, heard the two voices, and came hurrying 
into the cavern, which was now lighted only 
by the flames. 

* * Hurrah ! ' ^ he cried, as he came up to the 



130 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

bunk. He got hold of one of David's limp 
hands, and shook it heartily. **Feelin' fit 
as a fiddle — ^I don't think!" he exclaimed, 
with a chuckle. *^You gotter thank thi^ girl 
here that you can feel anything at alL How 
she ever did haul you out of them rapids 
I don't know. I hain't hearn the story yet, 
and I wasn't there to see. But I do know 
for myself that she's mighty spry, and pow- 
erful as a man." 

David regarded the girl with new wonder 
and respect, and, too, with a sense of vital 
relationship. 

^^You — ^you-all pulled me out!" he ques- 
tioned, half -timidly. 

Elizabeth showed no embarrassment. She 
had done the thing, and it was not to be de- 
nied or belittled. The honesty of her char- 
acter caused her to speak frankly. 

**I saw you upset. I was up here. There 
was just a chance. I took it. I got down to 
the point below in time to catch you. It was 
close work. I thought once I couldn't do it. 
But it came out all right." 

David looked into the limpid brown eyes 
of the girl with a reverent admiration. 

**Ye put yerself in danger t' save me I" he 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 131 

said softly. There was such a tone of feel- 
ing in his voice that for the first time Eliza- 
beth was a little confused. But she answered 
as candidly as before. 

**Yes. There was no other way," She as- 
sumed an air of brisk command. **And now 
you must rest, ^ ' She turned toward Morris. 
**You go," she bade him. Then she spoke 
again to her patient. ** You must sleep. I'll 
watch by you. Go to sleep." Almost in- 
stantly, David obeyed. 

It was a half -hour later when a sound of 
voices from outside attracted the attention 
of Elizabeth. A glance at her patient showed 
that he was sleeping soundly. She got up 
quietly, and went out to investigate. Within 
the circle of light from the flames, the Union 
soldier was standing with his arms stiffly 
stretched above his head and an expres- 
sion in which surprise, chagrin and fear 
were blended on his uncomely features. As 
Elizabeth appeared on the scene, a high 
feminine voice came incisively from out the 
night's shadows. 

**Now turn yer back, an' keep yer ban's 
up !" The last words were spoken with men- 
acing emphasis. 



132 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

Morris, as he turned, saw Elizabeth, and 
his face lighted in relief. He called out 
whiningly. 

*'Say, miss, canH you call off this dumed 
she wildcat! She^s drawed a gun on me, 
and stuck me up, and if she ain't just plain 
crazy, I miss my guess. She's been ravin' 
about some princess, and accusin' me of 
havin' her tucked away in a pocket some- 
wheres/' 

**You can put down your hands,*' Eliza- 
beth vouchsafed, and as Morris complied 
with a grunt of satisfaction, she called in a 
louder tone: **It's all right, Minnie. You 
needn't be worried any about this man." 
Unconsciously, she spoke with a contemp- 
tuous inflection, under which the fugitive 
writhed. There and then was born in his 
heart a feeling of enmity against the girl who 
was herself so strong and competent, and 
who regarded him in his weakness so scorn- 
fully. 

Minnie stepped within the lighted space by 
the fire. She was a pretty girl, much smaller 
than the princess, of a more markedly In- 
dian type, very vivacious and intelligent. 
Under her arm was the rifle which she had 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 133 

held trained on Morris. Her explanation 
was to the point. 

'^I saw this man an' hailed him. I knew 
he was a damn' Yank' soon's he spoke. I 
asked him whar you-all was, an' he said he 
didn't know anything 'bout ye. So I stuck 
him up." 

Morris broke in indignantly. 

* * She never said a blamed word about you, 
miss — ^just some highfalutin josh about a 
princess. Ain't the little spitfire crazy as a 
loon!" 

The answer came with a serene dignity 
that left the New Englander utterly flab- 
bergasted. 

**I am the Princess Elizabeth." 

Having thus said, the girl ignored Morris, 
and spoke briefly to her friend. She ex- 
plained what had occurred, and sent Minnie 
to bring the additional supplies required for 
the injured man. 

"While awaiting her messenger's return, 
Elizabeth reentered the cavern, and took her 
place beside the sleeping man. It was only 
after considerable hesitation that Morris 
ventured to approach her. He was in a state 
of almost ludicrous bewilderment. He could 



134 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

by no means solve the puzzle of this girl, 
who was at once so beautiful and so capable, 
who spoke with a propriety that even his 
unaccustomed ears appreciated to some ex- 
tent, who was called a princess, and herself 
claimed the rank. He recognized his own 
inferiority to her, and he knew that she, too, 
recognized it. The fact filled him with bit- 
terness, which was the more humiliating be- 
cause he was now dependent upon her bounty 
for food and shelter and protection in this 
country of his enemies. A princess who 
lived in a cave 1 He was baffled by the mys- 
tery of it all, and exasperated by his own 
helplessness. It was his hunger that com- 
pelled him to address her. 

Elizabeth frowned at his approach, and 
lifted a warning finger, lest he disturb the 
sleeper. So Morris came on tiptoe, and in 
a whisper asked for something to eat. The 
girl pointed toward the shelves stocked with 
provisions. 

"Help yourself, '^ she said indifferently. 

The man made a full meal, but it was un- 
flavored by gratitude. 

When Minnie returned, the two girls 
rigged a blanket across a comer of the 



THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 135 

cavern to form a private chamber. Then, as 
a little fever set in, and David became rest- 
less, Elizabeth redressed the wonnd with a 
healing ointment, and afterward soothed him 
with repeated applications of the cold spring 
water on his head. Morris was given the 
second bnnk, and Minnie slept on blankets in 
the cnrtained comer. But Elizabeth, despite 
the strain to which she had been subjected 
in the day's adventure, watched over David 
in wakeful solicitude through all the long 
hours of the night. It was not until after 
dawn, when Minnie had arisen, that she 
shared the meal prepared by her friend, and 
then took a few hours for her own repose. 

When she reappeared, Elizabeth found 
David just waking from a refreshing sleep. 
Only a slight trace of the fever remained. 

**Are you hungryf she asked. 

**As a b'ar!'' he declared promptly. His 
voice showed how greatly he had improved. 

Though David protested that he was no 
longer an invalid, Elizabeth regulated his 
diet with scrupulous nicety. She was indeed 
over-careful throughout the days that fol- 
lowed, even absurdly solicitous for the health 
of this man whom she regarded as her own 



136 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

personal responsibility since she had saved 
him from the river. She early admitted the 
truth that this stranger whom fate had 
brought filled all the requirements of her 
ideal mate. It almost seemed to her that 
her heart had gone out to him at the first 
instant of seeing his face. She accepted the 
fact of her love for him, and rejoiced in it. 
It never occurred to her to doubt that her 
love woxdd be returned. Though her charge 
spoke no word of direct tenderness, his eyes 
were eloquent, and his tones were vibrant 
with a feeling that found its response in her 
breast. Morris, always ill at ease in the 
presence of the princess, spent most of his 
time smoking on the ledge before the cavern. 
Minnie was absent a great part of the time. 
In consequence, Elizabeth and David were 
for the most part alone together, and in- 
evitably the intimacy between them devel- 
oped by leaps and bounds. The young man 
was in the throes of a great passion, though 
he refused to confess the truth to himself. 
The duty of loyalty to Ruth sealed his lips 
to any word of love. But duty was power- 
less to stem the emotion that surged within 
him. He denied his heart for very shame. 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 137 

but he knew the denial was a lie. And^ too, 
often shame vanished, and in its stead was 
exultation over the loveliness and the worth 
of this wonder-woman who ministered to 
him. From hour to hour, from day to day, 
he lived in a glamour. He dared not face 
the future; he turned away resolutely from 
the past. But in the present he was divinely 
blest. 

It was on the sixth day after the rescue 
of David from the rapids that Elizabeth 
called Morris to her, and gave him an order. 

**Take my rifle, and go out and get some 
fox squirrels. '^ 

The girPs cool tone was disdainful as al- 
ways when she addressed this enemy from 
the North. 

The soldier took the weapon, and went 
obediently; but within him the smoldering 
hostility threatened to burst into a blaze* 



CHAPTER Xni 

CHIEF LOWEIE and his lieutenant, 
Goins, were riding through the forest 
some half-dozen miles to the northwest of 
the Croatan camp, on their return from a 
scouting expedition, which had in prospect 
a raid for plunder. The sharp report of a 
rifle sounded near, and caused the two men 
to regard each other in surprise, since none 
of the tribe was likely to be in this neigh- 
borhood. But, in another moment, a thought 
came to the chief, which caused him to urge 
his pony in the direction of the sound. There 
was something familiar in the note of the 
weapon, and he recalled the fact that his 
daughter was still isolated somewhere in this 
vicinity. It seemed to him probable that it 
was she who had fired the shot. He was 
anxious for her return home. So, now, he 
pressed forward in the hope of meeting her 
and making known his wish. Goins followed 
his leader, mildly curious as to who the 
hunter might be. 

138 



THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 139 

As the two horsemen rode into a little glade 
within the wood, they saw a man stand- 
ing with rifle grounded, who was an ntter 
stranger. The fellow faced the newcomers 
with an attempt at bravado, which was visi- 
bly denied by the involuntary shrinking of 
his body. The whole effect of the stranger 
in his ill-fitting garments and with his gaxmt 
face half -hidden by the short red beard, was 
such as to provoke suspicion. There was 
something outlandish about him, something 
that declared he did not belong in the region, 
even before he opened his mouth. For a 
few seconds, the Croatans scrutinized the 
hunter with sharp glances. Then, suddenly, 
the chief's brows drew down in a black 
frown. His heavy voice boomed out, stri- 
dent and menacing. At the first sound of 
it, the stranger recoiled a pace as if from a 
blow. 

**Whar did ye git thet-thar rifle!** Lowrie 
demanded. His eyes glowered savagely. 
Then, as the other hesitated, confused by the 
fierceness of the unexpected query, the chief 
continued even more harshly in direct accusa- 
tion. 

**Thet-ihar rifle's my darter's. Whar'd 



140 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

ye git hit! Speak up damn' quick, if ye 
wanter save yer wuthless hide/* 

The unhappy Morris, for the hunter was 
he, was momentarily stricken speechless by 
the verbal onslaught. He stood in dumb con- 
sternation, his pale, red-rimmed eyes dilated 
in fear, his jaw sagging. The chief leaped 
from his saddle with an agiUty astonishing 
in one of his bulk. He strode close to the 
soldier, and towered over him threateningly. 

** Wharfs my gal, ye whelp f he demanded 
furiously. **Find yer tongue, er I'll find hit 
f er ye. ' * 

The fear that had held Morris speechless 
now drove him to utterance. He babbled 
quaveringly, brokenly. 

**The girl give it to me herself — ^the girl 
that says she's a princess — she sent me to 
shoot squirrels — I hain't stole the gun — ^I 
hain't done nothin' at all, mister — " 

The stammering whine broke off, for the 
huge hand of the chief fell on his shoulder, 
and he was shaken like a rat in the jaws of 
a terrier. When Lowrie let go his hold, 
Morris staggered and fell, and then sat cring- 
ing abjectly while his assailant spoke again. 

**Ye*r' a poor liar, ye damn' Yank'. My 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 141 

darter ain't nuinin' the conntry with sich as 
yon-all scnm ont o' Salisbnry, Ye don't need 
t* more'n open yer yawp t' tell whar ye come 
from. An' ye '11 be back thar sndden, if I 
don't kill ye fust." His voice, which had 
lightened a little, burst in a mighty roar. 

**Whar's my darter!" 

Morris scrambled to his feet, and remained 
half-crouched in terror, ready for instant 
flight if an opportunity came. But, as the 
chief stood waiting for an answer, the sol- 
dier 's brain cleared a little. He guessed that 
the strange girl who had given him the rifle 
was in fact the daughter of this raging giant 
who threatened to destroy him. To his 
memory came the father's indignant refer- 
ence to the girl's associating with such as he. 
It occurred to him that the man would be 
equally outraged should he become aware 
of the fact that she was nursing another 
stranger, with whom she dwelt in a lonely 
retreat. The enmity that he felt toward 
Elizabeth moved him to betrayal of her to 
her father. He was sure that in this wise 
he could divert wrath from himself to her, 
and thus perhaps save himself while injuring 
her. He was still greatly alarmed, but the 



142 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

hope of escape and of satisfTing his hostility 
toward the princess gave him strength to 
speak boldly for the first time. 

**I can lead you to where your girl is, and 
she'll tell you she give me her gun herself, 
to go shootin' with* She's in a kind of cave 
with a young chap she's fished out of the 
river." 

Lowrie, who had listened with a fair de- 
gree of patience, shouted a curse, and Morris 
shuddered again at the venom in the raucous 
voice. 

**Ye lyin' houn'l I'U cut out thet dirty 
tongue o' yer'n." 

Yet, some subtle note in the man's voice 
conveyed a hint of doubtfulness, which gave 
the soldier courage. 

**Time enough for that," he retorted, 
**when I've led you to the place, and you've 
found out what I've said wa'n't true. Meb- 
be you know where the cave is.'' 

The chief shook his head. 

**I knew she had a place some 'res," he 
admitted, with manifest reluctance, **but I 
don't know whar hit's at. I 'low you-all 
kin lead me thar. An' when I've proved 
ye'r^ lyin', I'll tend t' ye 'cordin' t' yer de- 



THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 143 

serts, an' it won't be no ways pleasant fer 
ye nuther." 

He reached out, and took the rifle from 
Morris, who made no effort to retain it. 
Then he climbed back on his horse, and spoke 
gruffly to Goins, who throughout the scene 
had remained a silent, but profoundly inter- 
ested observer. 

**You-all git along t' the camp, Charlie," 
he ordered. **I'll look arter this-hyar critter 
myself." 

Goins knew the chief too well to attempt 
any argument against the decree, but turned 
his horse, and rode away in the direction of 
the Croatan encampment. As he disappeared 
from view in the wood, Lowrie spoke a word 
of command to the soldier, and the two 
moved away brisldy together in a southerly 
direction toward the rapids of the Yadkin. 
Each was busy with thoughts not to be shared 
by any one, least of all by the other, so they 
covered the miles in silence. 

And even more silently a third man fol- 
lowed their trail. Goins, aflame with jeal- 
ousy over the soldier's report concerning the 
woman he expected to marry, had tethered 
his horse when safely out of sight, and then 



144 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

had returned to stalk the others, and so to 
be guided to this cave of which he had never 
before heard, where Elizabeth companied 
shamelessly with a foreigner. 

Lowrie left his horse at Morris* sugges- 
tion when they neared the hunting lodge, and 
the two men proceeded on foot, moving as 
noiselessly as possible by tacit agreement. 
The soldier led the way down the precipitous 
path to the broad ledge from which the 
cavern extended. There was no one visible 
on the shelf to give warning of their ap- 
proach, but a low murmur of voices sounded 
from within, made indistinct by the matting 
that intervened. Morris tiptoed softly to a 
point in the woven wall where he had dis- 
covered a little opening in the sedge-grass. 
He beckoned to the chief, who had halted, 
somewhat at a loss, and Lowrie cautiously 
advanced until he stood by the other's side. 
After a glance within, the Yankee drew back, 
and indicated the aperture. The father put 
his eye to the rent, and looked within. For 
a few seconds, his gaze, accustomed to the 
clear outer light, could distinguish nothing 
plainly within the dim interior of the shelter. 
But presently his vision adjusted itself to 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 145 

the obscurity, and he was able to see with 
a distinctness that caused him to choke back 
with difficulty the imprecations leaping to his 
lips. 

His daughter was seated on the floor, re- 
clining in a posture of graceful ease against 
the rough wooden side of a bunk. Her face 
was all animation, and she was speaking 
earnestly, in a soft, hurried voice. Her bril- 
liant black eyes were fixed on her listener 
with an expression of devotion that was un- 
mistakable. That listener answered the 
confession in her glances with a like emotion 
in his own. But he did not speak; only 
nodded mute acquiescence to her words. At 
the moment when the father thus spied upon 
her, Elizabeth was saying: 

**It has always seemed my duty to marry 
him.** Even in that dusky light, the chief 
could detect the flush that mantled his 
daughter's cheek. **But now, lately, I have 
come to know that I can never marry Charlie 
Goins.*' 



CHAPTER XIV 

LOWEIE withdrew his gaze from the 
opening in the matting, and noiselessly 
went back along the path up the bluff for a 
little way, beckoning the soldier to follow 
him. When they were at a distance so that 
he could speak without being overheard, he 
gave a gruff command to Morris. 

**I'll go back thar, an^ you-all go 'long 
inter the cave, an' talk t' my darter. I'll 
know by the way she acts whether ye been 
lyin' er not. If yeVe toP the truth, I hain't 
a-goin' t' hurt ye none." He turned and 
went cautiously back to the spying place, and 
an imperative gesture directed Morris to- 
ward the entrance of the cavern. 

The soldier went forward readily enough, 
but doubtfully, for he was more than ever 
bewildered by the course of events. He had 
expected to see this fierce old man convulsed 
by rage over the discovery of his daughter's 
secret association with the stranger. To 

146 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 147 

his amazement, the man showed no signs of 
anger, not even of a natural indignation on 
account of the treachery practised against 
him by his own child. Instead, the rugged 
features seemed somehow curiously softened. 
There was the suggestion of an immense 
satisfaction in his expression. Morris felt 
once again that he was utterly at a loss to 
understand the situation into which he had 
been thrust. He was well content, however, 
despite his confusion of mind, since the man 
who had threatened him now seemed com- 
paratively well disposed and tractable. So 
he entered the cavern confidently, and dis- 
played the two fox squirrels, which he had 
carried in his pocket. Elizabeth curtly bade 
him clean them against Minnie ^s coming, and 
nodded dismissal. On his return outside, 
Lowrie with a wave of the hand indicated that 
he should ascend to the top of the bluff. But 
the chief himself chose to remain at his espial 
a little longer. Thtis it came about that he 
heard himself mentioned by the girl. 

**I^m worried about pappy. It will hurt 
hiTi^ when he knows that I must go against 
his wishes. He's always expected me to 
marry Charlie Gorns.*' Elizabeth's voice 



148 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

was half-apologetic. **You see, he^s father's 
lieutenant, and so he *d naturally be the next 
chief if he married me. But I canH marry 
him, and that's all there is about it* I 
thought I could, but I can't.'' Her voice 
had hardened a little, with a note of defiance 
in it. ** What's more," she added resolutely, 
**I'm going to tell pappy all about it this 
very night — and about you, too, David," she 
added impulsively. She seemed unaware of 
the impUcation in her words by this associa- 
tion of her refusal to marry Goins with the 
fact of the young man 's coming into her life. 
Fut the implication was not lost on either 
of her hearers. In that moment, it was as 
if a light flamed in David's heart so that the 
truth stood out naked and unashamed, and 
beautiful — the truth that this girl, so capable 
and self-reliant, yet so delicately lovely, so 
adorably feminine, that this girl, to whom 
he owed his life, loved him. It flashed on 
him that he should pay this debt to her with 
his own heart. But the sense of another 
duty pressed hard upon him. He felt in every 
atom of his being the instinct of response 
to the love which the girl so innocently be- 
trayed. It took the utmost strength of his 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 149 

will to resist the surge of passion that would 
have swept him toward her. But he remem- 
bered Ruth, and the spirit of loyalty held 
him motionless and mute, sternly unyielding 
to his desire. Nevertheless, he could not veil 
the fires burning in his eyes as they met 
those of Elizabeth. The girPs gaze fell in 
a maidenly confusion, half -troubled, wholly 
sweet, as for the first time, under the im- 
pact of that ardent regard, she felt the stir- 
rings of womanly passion within her own 
breast. 

The other listener, the father, who might 
have been expected to be greatly disturbed 
by the overthrow of his most cherished plans, 
showed a surprising indifference to the dis- 
appointment. His face was not distorted by 
either anger or grief over the shattering of 
his hopes. On the contrary, his heavy fea* 
tures were relaxed into a grin that seemed 
one almost of approbation. He turned away 
and very quietly mounted the path that led 
to the sxunmit, where he found Morris wait- 
ing. He gave the fellow his daughter's 
rifle, which he had retained up to this time, 
and spoke roughly. 

**Ye kin git back thar. I %w ye was 



150 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

tellin' the truth. I hain't got no likin' for 
pizen critters sich as ye be* I meant t' put 
ye back in the prison thar at Salisbury, an' 
git the bounty fer ye, if I didn't kill ye fust 
But my darter's tuck up with ye, an' thet 
saves yer hide. But I reckon ye needn't say 
anythin' t' my darter 'bout hevin' seen an' 
talked with me. Thet's my business, an' not 
her'n. Keep yer mouth shet, er hit '11 be the 
wuss fer ye." 

As he ceased speaking, the chief hurried 
off toward where he had left his horse. 
Morris stood staring after the man, more 
perplexed than ever, for he had vaguely 
sensed a geniality about Lowrie, which was 
contrary to all his expectations. There was 
an air of satisfaction pervading the chief 
which was not dispelled in the least by the 
harshness of his speech. The soldier shook 
his head despondently as he watched the 
brawny form disappear within the wood. 
The mystery of it all was beyond his solving. 

There was another who watched the chief. 
Hardly had Lowrie vanished within the 
shadows of the forest when Goins left the 
place in which he had been lying concealed 
behind some bushes a few rods further up 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 151 

the bluff. He hurried in his turn to his 
horse, which he had left at some distance in 
order to escape observation. He mounted 
and rode at full speed for the encampment. 
But he was at pains to take a somewhat 
roundabout route to avoid being seen by 
liowrie. He was sure that the chief would 
ride slowly, and thus give him ample time 
to reach the settlement before the other's ar- 
rival, even though he took a longer trail. 
And in this he was justified. When Lowrie 
dismounted at his cabin door, he was greeted 
by his lieutenant, who lounged there, smok* 
ing. It never occurred to him to suspect that 
the man whom he trusted had come into the 
encampment only a few minutes before him, 
and not an hour agone. But it did occur to 
him to scrutinize Goins* face with unaccus- 
tomed keenness. He saw with new clearness 
the bestiality of the fellow's countenance, 
and for the first time he experienced a lively 
distaste for the one whom he had regarded 
hitherto as inevitably his successor in the 
government of the tribe. He became re- 
motely aware, too, of the aversion which such 
a man as this must provoke in such a woman 
his daughter* He perceived with an ab^ 



152 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

mpt sense of self -disgust the monstrousness 
of the marriage which he had projected be- 
tween Elizabeth, a girl of purest life and 
highest ideals, and this creature, so repulsive 
and so debased. He wondered at the blind- 
ness that had permitted him even to con- 
sider a union so grotesquely incongruous. 
He felt a sudden exaltation as he recalled his 
daughter's decision spoken to David in the 
cavern, that she would not wed Charlie Goins. 
The grin that had so mystified Morris a 
little while before, now reappeared on the 
chief's face as he considered his lieutenant — 
a grin equally smug and crafty. Goins, in 
his turn, was perplexed to know what might 
lie back of Lowrie 's expression. But he was 
wise enough to bide his time and to ask no 
question. He guessed that affairs in connec- 
tion with his wooing were not progressing 
as he could wish. A rabid jealousy had been 
aroused in him already by what he had heard 
from the soldier and the practical verifica- 
tion of it which he had witnessed from his 
place of hiding on the occasion of Lowrie 's 
visit to the hunting lodge. He swore a silent 
oath of hatred against the man whom Eliza- 
beth had rescued from the river, and re- 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 153 

solved to remove that obstade from his pafh 
mihlessly, should the need arise. 

True to her avowed purpose, the princess 
returned to the encampment that evening 
with Minnie, and at once sought a private in- 
terview with her father. She narrated first, 
very briefly, the events connected with the 
coming of David. Her father listened closely, 
smoking steadily, his face quite expression- 
less under the anxious eyes of his daughter. 
When, finally, she paused for some comment, 
he spoke in a tone of seeming indifference. 

** 'E needs a little more rest afore goin' 
on 'is way, ye say? WaU, I caPlate we'll 
hev to hev 'im hyar till 'e gits right peart 
ag'in. I 'low 'e kin stop by right hyar, 'e 
bein*, 'cordin' t' yer say-so, a fitten pusson. 
I'll find a place fer the sojer some 'res till 
we kin git rid o' 'im." 

A dainty blush of pleasure warmed the 
girl's cheeks as her father thus gratified the 
wish which she had not directly expressed. 
The chief was not unobservant of the effect 
upon her, and his complacency increased, al- 
though his features remained as stolid as 
ever. 

The princess, encouraged by her success 



154 THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 

thus f ar^ took heart of grace^ and broached 
the subject of the proposed marriage be- 
tween her and Charlie Goins. She was in 
some degree abashed by her own temerity 
in going counter to her father's wish, but 
she was upheld by a spirit of determination 
bom of the new emotion that had come into 
her heart The feeling for David was not 
to be denied, and the first effect of it was 
to forbid her from entering into a loveless 
union with a man whom she despised and 
loathed. So, with much faltering, she made 
known the fact of her insurmountable anti- 
pathy for the man selected by her father, 
and her final resolve to resist the fellow's 
suit, even to the point of direct disobedience 
to her father's command. The girl spoke 
humbly, but there was an under-note of de- 
liberate decision, which her father recognized 
and respected, though he still maintained his 
austere demeanor. Elizabeth was distressed 
by the sternness of his visage, and added a 
pitiful plea for forgiveness of her fault, if 
such it seemed to him. Then, at last, she 
ceased speaking, and for a little time silence 
rested between the two. 
When presently he answered, the chief's 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 165 

voice was grave, but vdth a kuxdliness in 
it that the girl had not expected. 

**I low ye^r' honest, 'Liz^beth. Now I 
jiflt Want ye t* tell yer oP pappy one thing 
right out fr^m yer heart, gal. Ye didn't say 
Aothin' like this t'other day, when I axed 
ye Tbout gittin' spliced t' Charlie.'* The 
ragged countenance softened swiftly, and a 
gentle glow lighted the piercing black eyes 
that studied his daughter's face. "I aim t' 
hev ye tell me jist how 'tis with ye» Ye 
seem t' hev got a mighty sudden notion 
ag'inst pore Charlie. Has this stranger fr'm 
up yender got anythin' t' do with yer new 
way o ^ lookin ' at things ? Tell me thet, 'Liz '- 
beth." He waited in silence. 

A great wave of color flooded the girl's 
face. She dropped her head in her hands, 
and sat bowed, unable for the moment to 
reply, shaken by emotion. The father did 
not urge her. There was imaccustomed ten- 
derness in the gaze that he held steadfastly 
on the agitated figure before him. And, too, 
now that he was himself unobserved, the 
stolidity of his expression relaxed, and there 
was a recurrence of the grin that told of a 
secret satisfaction. 



156 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

Elizabeth dropped her hands at last, and 
raised her face, which was radiant in spite 
of the embarrassment it showed. The limped 
lusters of her eyes were unusually brilliant, 
flashing from the emotion that vibrated in 
her heart. She met her father's scrutiny 
bravely, and uttered her confession in a voice 
which, while hardly more than a whisper, 
was firm, and resonant of pride and joy in 
the avowal. 

**Tes, I — ^I love him.^' She hesitated for 
a moment, and then continued falteringly. 
**I never knew — ^what it meant before — ^lovel 
It's because I didn't know that I thought — 
I supposed of course I could — ^marry Charlie. 
Now, it's all different— oh, so different I I've 
learned something about what love is — ^what 
it means. I could never marry Charlie now. 
Just the thought of it sickens me. Even if 
I could never marry him — ^David, I mean — 
it wouldn't make any difference about 
Charlie. No, I couldn't marry Charlie — 
never 1" The abhorrence written on her face 
gave emphasis to the words. She looked 
away, brooding, while the father watched 
her, tracing the trend of her thoughts as 
she mused by turns on David and Goins by 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 157 

the changing play of her features from light 
to gloom. 

After a long interval, the chief put a ques- 
tion. As a matter of fact, he had no doubt 
as to the final answer of that question. He 
was sure that no man could prove insensible 
to the beauty and charm of his daughter. 
He interrogated her now rather for the sake 
of learning her own attitude than for any 
other reason. 

**An' 'im, now? What about 'im — ^this 
feller fr'm some'eres up beyon'T Is ^e a-say- 
in' as how 'e loves you-all, 'Liz'bethf^' 

The girl looked at him, startled, with wide 
eyes. 

"Does this-hyar feller, David, love yef 
he demanded again. 

A shadow of fright dimmed the radiance 
of the face which had been joyous a moment 
before. Thus far, in the newness of the 
great emotion excited in her by the stranger *s 
coming, she had hardly let her thoughts 
dwell on what his feelings for her might be. 
On the occasions when the idea had occurred 
to her, she had somehow taken it for granted 
that his feeling must be like hers. Now, 
confronted with the blunt question, she found 



158 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

herself suddenly overwhelmed with doubt. 
She realized that she had no actual knowU 
edge of bis heart. She had had hope, but no 
certainty. He had uttered no least word of 
love to her— only the expressions of a natural 
gratitude for the service she had rendered 
him. Now, hope seemed blasted by the crude 
clarity of her father's question. Her face 
went white. 

She answered tremulously, yet with the 
courage that was characteristic of her. 

**Why, pappy,'' she said very low, and 
there was a childish quiver of the curving 
red lips, **why, I — I don't know I" 



CHAPTER XV 

NEXT morning early, Elizabeth mounted 
her pony and rode to the hunting 
lodge. She was brimming with delight at 
the manner in which her father had received 
her confession the night before. She had 
thought that he would be at least greatly dis- 
tressed over her refusal to accept Goins as 
a husband. She had even feared that he 
might fly into one of his red rages, and insist 
on the exercise of his authority to compel 
her acquiescence in the marriage. Thus his 
tractability in the matter had surprised her 
as much as it had gratified her. She was 
somewhat at a loss to understand this unac- 
customed adaptability on his part. But she 
was not minded to disturb herself over rea* 
sons why. She was content with the relief 
aflforded, and took joy of it. To add to her 
happiness, there was the fact that her father 
showed no disfavor over the presence of 
David within his territory— seemed rather 

159 



160 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

to welcome the young man, as was proven by 
a ready invitation to his own home. 

Elizabeth found David and the soldier 
sunning themselves and smoking comfortably 
on the level of rock before the cavern. Both 
men arose as the girl came hurrying down 
the path from the top of the bluff, and David 
strode quickly forward to greet her, his face 
alight with pleasure. He smiled for sheer 
sympathy as his eyes took in the radiance 
of her expression. Elizabeth put out both 
hands, which he seized in a warm clasp, as 
their glances met and mingled. For a long 
moment neither spoke while they thrilled 
under the contact of hand to hand and eye 
to eye in a delicious intimacy of emotion. 
The impulse to draw her to him was strong 
on David, and he sensed in her a yielding 
as if she were ready to give herself to his 
embrace. But, once again, the mountaineer 
fought down the passion that assailed him, 
though his gaze, charged with tenderness, 
could not deny his heart, and answered the 
adoration that shone in hers. 

The princess recovered herself first. Some- 
thing of her usual poise returned to her 
manner as she drew her hands from David 's. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 161 

There was still a deeper color flooding the 
golden tint of her cheeks, and her expression 
revealed the delight that filled her heart. 
Her first words explained the cause of her 
mood. 

**It*s all right, David. I told pappy, as 
I said I would, and he didn't make any fuss 
at all — ^you know, about Charlie.*' She had 
lowered her voice at the name, lest Morris 
overhear. **And I told him about you, too, 
David. '* She spoke shyly now. **He was — 
oh, so interested! I didn't know — ^I thought, 
perhaps — '' She broke off, in confusion, but 
controlled herself, and went on speaking 
more quietly. ** Pappy wants you to visit 
him at the camp. You must come at once.'* 

**I ought to be on my way,'' David pro- 
tested, half-heartedly. **Ye've done enough 
fer me already. I ain't sick now, an' I don't 
low I've got much of any excuse fer visitin' 
yer pappy. ' ' 

Elizabeth dismissed his objection with the 
imperious petulance of the true princess. 

** Nonsense 1" she exclaimed. **You'll do 
as I say, and come home with me right off." 

The voice of Morris sounded querulously, 
with a suggestion of alarm in it 



162 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

^ ^ And what about me, miss f What 'a goin* 
to become of met'' 

**0h, youP' The girl lifted her eyes, and 
regarded the man disdainfully. **Why, 
you're to come, too. My father wiU not in- 
terfere with your escape, though he hates 
your kind. And I reckon you'd better be 
starting pretty soon after we get to the camp. 
You can have a guide. If he stayed around 
long, some of the tribe might get to playing 
tricks on him," she explained to David. 
* * They naturally despise those Northerners. ' ' 

Morris scowled, but ventured no comment, 
and followed the two as they set forth for 
the Croatan encampment, the girl riding and 
David walking beside her. 

On their arrival at the settlement, David 
was both astonished and pleased at the 
warmth of friendliness in the chief's greet- 
ings. While Morris was gruffly dismissed to 
another place in the little village, the moun- 
taineer was taken into Lowrie's cabin and 
most hospitably entertained there. The chief 
gave him a share of his own bed, and in 
every way treated the newcomer as a favored 
guest. His personal interest in this stranger 
was witnessed by the constancy of his as- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 163 

godatioii, which wa8 such us to awoy Eliza- 
beth, who missed the intimacy she had so 
enjoyed in the cavern. It was evident thfit 
the chief took pleasure from the outset in 
the society of this new companion, and hi$ 
instantaneous liking rapidly developed into 
a warm regard. The two talked together 
freely, for David, in his turn, was attracted 
by the powerful personality of this autocrat 
in the wilderness. He responded frankly to 
the elder man^s searching questions, until 
there was nothing more to be told of his 
simple history. And aU that he learned 
pleased the chief hugely. But he kept strict 
silence as to those plans for the future in 
which David and his daughter were alike con- 
cerned so vitally. 

Morris was eliminated from the scene on 
the day he reached camp. Lowrie gave him 
in charge of one of the older men to be guided 
to those Union sympathizers who would furi- 
ther hi^ escape. 

** He'll git ye t^ the underground railroad, 
an' then yer friends kin look arter ye. Te'll 
be safer with them than hyar-abouts. My 
boys mostly hain't got no likin' fer sich 
varmints as you-all," 



164 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

And Morris, frightened by the sullen 
hatred so plainly visible on the faces of the 
Croatans, was thankful to be quit of sur- 
roundings equally uncongenial and danger- 
ous. He hastened off without even a word 
to David or Elizabeth, each of whom had 
succored him in the hour of need. 

On a Sunday afternoon, Lowrie and David 
sat chatting and smoking in the living-room, 
while Elizabeth busied herself with braiding 
strands of rawhide into a long whiplash. A 
group of the younger Croatans was engaged 
in trials of strength and skill on the level 
strip of sward that stretched before the 
chief's cabin. The main attraction was the 
wrestling bouts where the rivalry was keen, 
and many of the competitors displayed 
marked ability. David, who from the circum- 
stances of the case had a particular interest 
in Charlie Goins, observed with some sur- 
prise that the lieutenant took no active part 
in the wrestling. He questioned Lowrie. 

**Why don't yer lieutenant, that Goins, try 
a fall? He looks plumb powerful.'* 

Lowrie nodded. 

** Charlie's right-smart strong," he de- 
dared; ** pretty nigh strong's I be. 'E ain't 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 165 

wrastlin' none, 'cause 's too good fer the 
other boys/' He cast an appraising glance 
over his guest's stalwart form. **Mebbe so, 
you-all Mn wrastle some yerself," 

David grinned sheepishly, with a muttered 
word of deprecation concerning his own 
prowess. As a matter of fact, his excep- 
tional strength and quickness, together with 
his mental shrewdness, had won him fame as 
the champion wrestler of his county. Lowrie, 
after a second and longer scrutiny of the 
young man, spoke again. There was a trace 
of eagerness in the rumbling voice, and, too, 
just a hint of anxiety, as if his suggestion had 
a graver import than the mere words seemed 
to justify. 

**I 'low now ye wouldn't wanter take a 
try with Charlie yerself." Then he added, 
hastily, as though in answer to a smothered 
ejaculation from Elizabeth: ** Course hit 
hain't no disgrace t' be throwed by Charlie. 
Ain't nobody kin put 'im on 'is back 'cept 
me." 

Though he spoke so lightly, the chief was 
already regretting the impulse that had led 
him to suggest this match. He realized fully 
that its consequences might jeopardize his 



166 THE HOMEWABD a?BAlL 

whold project of making the mountaineer, aft 
his daughter's husband, his successor in the 
chieftainship of the tribe. The ruler of the 
Croatans must be their proven master physic^ 
Ally as well as mentally. If Goins were to 
vanquish David in the presence of the tribe, 
the stranger's prestige would suffer a fatal 
blow from the defeat. The dismay in Eliza- 
beth's exclamation had brought the truth 
home to Lowrie. He studied David's form 
once again as the young man stood up, and 
what he saw encouraged him to risk the issue, 
though he was at pains to avoid the reproach^ 
ful glance of the princess, who expostulated 
Indignantly : 

**Why, pappy, David isn't well again yet.'* 

But David himself shook his head in ve- 
hement denial of her assertion* 

*' Shucks, now!" he asserted. *'If I was 
feelin' any better, they'd have t' put a ring 
in my nose, an' lead me on a rope." The 
confidence in his glance cheered the girl, 
though she still feared for the outcome. 
**I'm willin' t' try yer ohampeen," he added 
to the chief. 

The matter was speedily arranged, and 
David and Goins, stripped to the waist, 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 167 

faced each other with mutual respect, if not 
liMug. David did not make the mistake of 
underestimating his opponent. He guessed 
that the Groatan's strength was superior to 
his own, and determined to place his reliance 
on excelling in quickness and strategy. To 
him, however, there was no crisis in thi^ 
meeting beyond a natural desire to win 
against one whom he instinctively disliked, 
and whom he actively detested on Elizabeth 'si 
account. Goins, however, was overjoyed at 
this opportunity of meeting in combat the 
man whom he regarded as his rival, an inter- 
loper threatening his whole scheme of love 
and life. Neither Lowrie nor his daughter 
had said anything to imply a change in the 
lieutenant's status, but Goins was not lack- 
ing in intelligence of a sort, and he was able 
to make a shrewd estimate of the possibili- 
ties. The public worsting of his antagonist, 
while it would by no means satisfy his hatred, 
would go far toward reestablishing his mm* 
eced supremacy in the tribe. 

The chief boomed a command, and the two 
contestants set themselves to the struggle. 
For a few moments, they circled each other 
warily, eying each other alertly, seeking an 



168 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

opportunity. Then there came a swift inter- 
play of movements, and the two men were 
on all fours, grappled. The action was rapid, 
unhesitating, for each knew just what he 
meant to do. The circle of Croatans and their 
chief watched in tense silence, thrilled by a 
display of force and skill in which the two 
seemed equally matched. There came grunts 
of exultation from the members of the tribe 
when their champion secured the scissors 
hold, famous for the adversaries it had van- 
quished. 

Goins straddled David's back. His legs 
locked under his enemy's thighs. Then the 
constriction by the powerful muscles across 
the belly would drive the breath from his 
foe, crumple him to limp helplessness. But 
David knew his danger — ^knew his powerless- 
ness within that crushing grip, once the full 
strength of it was exerted against him. In 
the instant that Goins secured the hold, the 
mountaineer acted with every atom of speed 
and energy which he possessed. His hands 
clutched the other's toes, and wrenched at 
them savagely. The shock of the pain forced 
the Croatan to relax his locked ankles; the 
legs fell apart. Still in that same instant. 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 169 

one of David's arms shot np under the lieu- 
tenant's shoulder and clasped over the back 
of the neck ; the other slipped to a crotch hold 
from below. Mighty as his muscles were, 
Goins found them impotent within that clutch, 
for the suddenness and sureness of the at- 
tack took him at a disadvantage, without a 
coimter. The pressure on his neck weakened 
him. His frantic effort of resistance was 
pitifully futile. In a frenzy of impotent 
rage, he felt his shoulders bent lower and 
lower toward the ground. Came a heave 
from the arm at his middle, followed by the 
impact of the other man's full weight as his 
body turned, and he crashed full length on 
the turf, shoulders and hips unmistakably 
touchhig the ground before the eyes of all the 
startled circle. 

^^FaUI" 

The chief's bellowed word snapped the ten- 
sion. The spectators broke into groups, mut- 
tering excitedly, their faces glad or sullen 
according to their individual feeling toward 
the beaten wrestler. David got up quickly, 
and stood regarding Lowrie somewhat self- 
consciously, his chest heaving from the vio- 
lence of his exertion, his forehead wet ydUx 



170 THE HOMEWAED TBAlL 

penpiration. From her place in the window 
of the living-room, whence she had Watched 
the encounter in tremors of alternating hope 
and feai^i Elizabeth looked down on the f oi'm 
of thd man Bhe loved, and the adoration of 
her heart was told by her eyes for all the 
World to See. Goins, rising heavily, saw, and 
the rage over his defeat swelled to a black 
hatred that there and then took oath of 
Vengeance against the stranger. 

Lowrie spoke with the voice of author- 
ity, though he smiled as he met David's 
6y6s. 

**NoW, yotlngster, 1*11 jist take ye on my- 
Self*'^ 

* * But— ' ' David began. 

The chief interrupted. 

**Got t' down ye, er the boys'd think I was 
gittin' old.'* 

.The subsequent event astounded David by 
its unexpectedness. He found his skill and 
agility of no avail now. At once LoWrie 
wrapped him in an embrace that could not 
be broken. He was as helpless as a child 
within the iron arms of the elder man, who 
stood like a rock, unshaken in any degree by 
the violent writhings of his victim. It was 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 171 

almost with gentleness that Lowrie laid the 
young man on the ground, while the tribes- 
men — ^all save Goins — ^roared acclamations 
to their chief. 



CHAPTER XVI 

COINCIDENCE is only a mystery to us 
by reason of our ignorance concerning 
causes. The most extraordinary event is 
easily explained by a knowledge of all the 
facts. Thus the meeting of three principal 
characters in this story, two days after the 
wrestling, was indeed a coincidence, but that 
coincidence was the inevitable effect of cer- 
tain causes working on the wills of the trio. 
There was a certain likeness between the 
moods of Elizabeth and David. Each of 
them experienced the distress due to a love 
thwarted. The girl realized daily more and 
more the fact that some barrier stood be- 
tween her and the man to whom she had 
given her heart. She was sure by her wo- 
man's intuition that he loved her, and yet 
he spoke no word. She grieved in silence. 
The only assuagement was to hope still, even 
against conviction of the truth. David, for 
his part, knew what the barrier was that 

172 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 173 

reared itself between him and this woman of 
his longing. Each of the two lovers was con- 
strained in the presence of the other, fear- 
ing a more explicit self-reveldtion. Each 
was inclined to seek relief from the strain 
in solitude. Each mused with peculiar ten- 
derness on their time together in the first 
period of their association. That gloomy 
cavern in the cliff above the Yadkiu River 
became the sanctuary of fondest memories. 
Naturally, then, each thought of the place 
as a refuge to be sought for melancholy medi- 
tation. 

On this autumn morning, Elizabeth, more 
than ever unhappy over the aloofness of 
David, determined to ride forth alone. She 
had just finished attaching the whiplash she 
had braided to a handle of hickory, which 
had been deftly fashioned for her by old 
Amidas Durr, the expert hewer of ax helves 
for the tribe, who had dyed the wood to a 
rich red with pokeberries, and had carved 
the knobbed butt cunningly. 

'* Just for a ride,'' she explained to David, 
as she went out. She trembled with hope 
that he might offer to accompany her, but 
he did not. She rode slowly over the wood- 



174 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

land trail until she came to the river bluff. 
There she dismounted, and, descending to 
the cavern, entered the chamber, and gave 
herself to bitter-sweet meditations. 

She had hardly gone from the encamp- 
ment, when David, too, slipped away by him- 
self. And his steps were drawn by the same 
magnet that had guided her. He walked 
swiftly with the elastic, loping stride of the 
mountaineer, and his course led straight 
along the woodland trail over which Eliza- 
beth had just ridden. 

Between these two went a third traveler 
through the forest. Goins had been watch- 
ing for an opportunity to speak privately 
with Elizabeth, in the hope of pressing favor- 
ably his claims as her suitor. When he saw 
her ride off, he determined to follow, and 
did so on horseback. He was careful to 
maintain a considerable distance between him 
and the girl, so that she would not be aware 
of his pursuit. It had rained during the night, 
and the Croatan's trained eyes easily picked 
out the hoof marks of the princess' pony on 
the soft ground. Despite his carefulness, he 
came near being discovered by the girl, since 
she rode at a pace much slower than was 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 175 

usual with her, so that he came in sight of 
her unexpectedly. He reined his horse into 
a place of concealment, behiad some chin- 
quipin bushes beside the trail, and then, 
after a considerable interval, proceeded more 
slowly. When he found that she was evi- 
dently bound for her secret retreat in the 
cliffs, he rejoiced exceedingly. It seemed to 
him that fate was playing into his hands by 
providing this chance of an interview safe 
from the possibility of any interruption. At 
last, he would be free to speak his mind in 
full. He felt a savage glee at the prospect 
of being able to intimidate the girl accord- 
ing to his will. In his experience of women, 
brute strength had proved the best subju- 
gator. He would not hesitate to take violent 
measures, should gentler persuasions fail. 

Elizabeth had seated herself on the floor 
of the cavern, with her back against the bunk, 
in the posture that had become familiar dur- 
ing the days there with David. Now, the as- 
sociation of her surroundings recalled memo- 
ries of him so vivid and so tender that they 
filled her heart with a poignant anguish as 
she realized how they were apart, not merely 
as a matter of the miles that lay between at 



176 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

this moment, but apart by reason of that 
barrieY of whicb she knew nothing beyond 
the dreadful fact of its presence. 

The princess lifted her face, which had 
been buried in her hands. Through the 
shadowy sadness of her expression flashed a 
gleam of hope. The crunching of heavy 
steps had sounded from without. Could it 
be — ^DavidT Had he, after all, followed her? 
She stood up, her dark eyes aglow with ex- 
pectation, the curving graces of her form 
tensed, as she gazed toward the entrance of 
the cavern. Then the light of the opening 
was obscured by a bulky shadow. The first 
glance sufficed to tell that her fond hope was 
vain. The silhouette had neither the height 
nor the elegance of David ^s figure. It was 
broader, but much shorter, almost squat, with 
the huge hands dangling from the long arms 
almost to the knees. It needed no more than 
the black outline to announce the presence of 
the one man in the world whom she detested 
— Goins. Elizabeth uttered an ejaculation of 
disgust as she recognized the unwelcome 
visitor. His coming meant that the privacy 
of her retreat was destroyed. How he had 
chanced upon the place she could not guess. 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 177 

but she deemed it quite possible that he had 
spied upon her. The coming of Goins into 
this her sanctuary filled her with anger. He 
profaned the spot sacred to her tenderest 
memories. She resented his intrusion as an 
audacity that merited harshest rebuke. Both 
wrath and contempt were in her voice as she 
spoke : 

**What are you doing heref 

Goins came forward before he replied, 
until he stood dose to the girl, facing her. 
His smaU eyes were blinking in an effort of 
adjustment to the dim light of the interior. 
His loose lips were twisted into a complacent 
smirk, which still further incensed the girl. 
Had * his vision been clearer, perhaps he 
might have read the storm signals in the 
princess » sparkHng eyes, drawn brows and 
straightened lips. Or perhaps, even after 
his eyes had become accustomed to the dim- 
mer light, he would still have been blinded 
by the vanity that is characteristic of his 
type. He was a leader among his fellows. 
He had had some successes with women of a 
sort. His physical strength gave him cause 
for self-glorification. He had no knowledge 
of his faults, and his egotism was unalloyed. 



178 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

It was inconceivable to him that he could 
be abhorrent both physically and mentally 
to the purity of the princess, for of purity 
he knew nothing at all. He had no doubt 
that, given the opportunity, he could domi- 
nate the girL And the opportunity was 
here. So, he answered her question now with 
conceited insolence: 

**I 'lowed ye must be pinin' fer yer Charlie, 
honey. This is a right-snug place fer lovers' 
cuddling '' There was a venomous signifi- 
cance in the latter sentence, for he was think- 
ing of the time that Elizabeth and David 
had passed together in this retreat. 

Elizabeth understood the allusion, and re- 
sented it as an insult. She spoke with a 
cold quietude that should have warned the 
man before her, but did not. 

**This is my private place. I choose my 
own guests. I do not choose you. Go, please, 
and never come back.'' 

Goins laughed boisterously. It was a joke 
that she should speak to him like this, as if 
he were to be put out of countenance by 
high-and-mighty airs. She needed to be 
taught a few things, and he would be the 
teacher. He had let her play with him long 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 179 

enough. It was time for her to learn what 
was what. 

* * Show ! ^ ' he exclaimed, in a tone of rough 
joviality. **This ain^t no nice way fer a gal 
t' talk t' her husban* what^s t' be. Ye been 
standin' off qiiite a spell now, 'Liz^beth,*' he 
went on, with a harder note in his voice. 
**An' I don^t aim t' let ye git rambunctious 
with ary other feller, nuther. *Tain*t fitten, 
noways. You-all an* me is promised, an* I 
cal*late as how ye got t* run straight, er it*ll 
be the wuss fer ye. * ' He thrust his lowering 
face close to the girPs, and scowled at her, 
and the flabby lips were lifted in a snarl. 

Elizabeth did not draw back, but stood un- 
daunted, her eyes meeting the challenge in 
his with a supreme scorn, as he concluded: 
**I *low we-all better kiss, an* make up.** 

**Kiss you I** the girl retorted; and the 
loathing in her voice brought a flush to the 
man's cheeks, thick-skinned as he was. **I*d 
rather Mss a rattler. You*ve never kissed 
me yet, Charlie Goins, and, what*s more, you 
never will.** 

The fellow *s face grew black, and the little, 
bead-like eyes shone dangerously. 

**Ye*r* my promised wife, an* thet*s by 



180 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

the chief's say-so. Thar hain't no goin' 
back o' thet. I low a few o' my kisses '11 
wake ye up a mite, an' warm ye inter bein' 
more lovin-like. An' I aim t' give 'em t' 
ye." 

The determination in the girl's face should 
have made him pause. But he was mindful 
only of the gross passion that burned in him 
at sight of her loveliness. He was sure that 
his own brutal resources, employed here in 
this isolated nook where no interruption was 
possible, would mold her to his desire, would 
win from her that responsiveness which he 
craved. He lunged forward. The long arms 
swept out to embrace her. But the princess 
had divined his attack. She eluded it by a 
spring to one side. At the same time, she 
swung the dogwhip. The lash hissed through 
the air, and fell across Goins' face, over the 
eyes. He yelled an oath, and staggered back, 
blinded. The princess would have fled, for 
an idea as to the peril to which she was ex- 
posed shook her accustomed self-reliance. 
But the man was between her and the mouth 
of the cavern, and she feared to place her- 
self within his reach. That this fear was 
justified was proven a few moments later, 



THE HOMEWARD TEAIL 181 

when the mnmhling curses were broken oflf, 
and Goins turned toward her the blurred, 
bloodshot eyes, from which the tears were 
streaming. 

*'ni hev ye now, damn ye I*' he shouted, 
and jumped toward her, 

Elizabeth dodged, and fled toward the exit. 
But she was not quick enough. The man 
whirled, sprang after in a mighty leap, 
caught her. He held her crushed to him 
in a vice-like embrace, and bellowed tri- 
umphantly. 

* * Ye ^r ^ mine I * ' he gloated. * * I 'U show ye, 
ye damn^ little spitfire! I %w IT! take 
them-thar kisses. I^U Parn ye how t' treat 
yer promised man.*' 

Even in her desperate plight, the girPs 
spirit was not broken. 

**I'll never marry you, Charlie Goins I'' 
she gasped. **IVe told pappy so. Never — 
never ! ' ' 

Goins * ugly face, so close to hers that she 
felt the fetid breath of him in her nostrils, 
was distorted by an evil grin, leering and 
unspeakably malignant. 

* ' I reckin ye *r * plumb shore t * change yer 
mind arter — ** he paused significantly — 



182 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

**arter weVe done finished our lovin* hyar 
this mo'nin\'' 

Elizabeth shuddered at the implication in 
the words, A dread that was like physical 
sickness ran through her, and she went limp 
within the constricting arms. She did not 
gain the merciful relief of unconsciousness, 
but she was wholly unnerved by the fright- 
fulness of her situation, and so weak as to 
be utterly helpless. Goins uttered a grunt 
of satisfaction as he felt her form relax. He 
lifted her easily, and bore her back across 
the cavern. 

Half-way between the entrance and the 
bunk, Goins halted abruptly, and, still hold- 
ing his burden, stood with his head turned 
a little to one side, listening intently. He 
heard now, as Elizabeth had heard a little 
while before, the crunching of heavy steps 
that approached the cavern. They came 
swiftly, too, and at the sound of them the 
Croatan's face changed its expression of 
lustful cruelty for one of demoniac rage at 
this interruption of his purpose. His fury 
was even greater when the newcomer darted 
into the chamber, and he recognized David. 

The mountaineer had been on the top of 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 183 

the bluff, about to descend to the hunting- 
lodge, when he was startled by Goins' cries, 
first of pain and wrath, and then of triumph. 
David had no idea as to the meaning of the 
shouts. He did not identify the voice. But 
the mere fact that they issued from the place 
consecrated to Elizabeth beset him with ap- 
prehensions of some unimagined catastrophe. 
He had no suspicion of the girl ^s visit to the 
spot. Nevertheless, in some vague fashion, 
he was filled with alarm, and before the 
echoes of Goins* exultant yell had died, he 
was racing down the path. 

Within the cavern, David stopped short, 
confused for some instants by the dimming 
of his sight. The Croatan improved the 
inomentary respite by dropping the girl from 
his arms. As she fell to the stone floor, he 
leaped for his enemy. 

There had been time for David's eyes to 
clear. He recognized the man and the girl 
before him — ^understood something of the 
horror on which he had stumbled. An anger 
even greater than Goins* own flamed in his 
blood. It was greater, more deadly, because 
it was righteous. The enormity of the man's 
offense against the woman he loved roused 



184 THE HOMEWARD TKAHj 

David to a murderous frenzy. The brutal 
carelessness with which the fellow cast her 
from him maddened the mountaineer. Yet, 
notwithstanding his rage, David's mind 
worked clearly. He had no intention of risk- 
ing defeat by any imprudence. He admitted 
to himself the superior strength of his ad- 
versary, and he meant to keep free from the 
grip of those arms. His helplessness in 
Lowrie 's clasp was in Hs memory. He might 
find himself equally powerless should he fall 
into Goins' clutch. At all costs, he must 
strive to avoid that risk. So, as the Croatan 
charged, David swerved, and jumped outside 
the sweep of the arms. B\it, as the other 
man passed him, the mountaineer got in two 
blows, which brought grunts of distress, 
though they failed of other visible effect. 

Thereafter for a long minute, it was **fist 
and skull'' between the two. David was far 
more skilful in his footwork, and placed 
his blows with greater accuracy. But they 
seemed wholly unavailing against the Croat- 
an 's iron frame. And always he was ham- 
pered by the necessity of avoiding the clinch 
which his antagonist as constantly sought. 
Sheer desperation at last drove him to 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 185 

fiercer attacks, in which he was more careless 
of his own safety. One of his blows sent 
Goins staggering away from him, and he 
closed in with the hope of a speedy victory. 
He swung with all his weight for the jaw. 
Goins ducked clumsily. David *s knuckles 
glanced from chin to cheek. He lurched out 
of balance. Before he could recover, the 
arms he had dreaded locked about him, and 
he found himself impotent, strangling under 
the pressure of his ribs against his lungs. 
He fought as best he could to wrench himself 
free, though he knew the task was beyond 
his strength. The only effect of his strug- 
gling was to send the two reeling drunkenly 
to and fro. There was no loosening of the 
Croatan^s hold. 

Elizabeth had been shocked out of lethargy 
by the violence of her fall on the stone floor 
when Goins spumed her. She sat up feebly, 
and watched the combatants dully at first, 
without any personal interest in the conflict. 
Then, presently, her brain grew active again. 
She remembered her own peril, and perceived 
its sequel here in the fight between the two 
men. She perceived as well that Goins must 
be vanquished both for her own sake and for 



186 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

the sake of the man she loved. And, as 
realization came to her, she groaned in utter 
despair, for she saw David wrapped about 
by the gorilla-like arms of their common 
enemy, and she knew that he could not win 
clear. It flashed on her then that the sole 
hope for the two of them rested in her. The 
fighting spirit of her race burned hot within 
her. She did not pause for thought, but 
acted on instinct. As the two men staggered 
past her, she crouched and sprang, and 
caught Goins below the knees. There she 
dung. The momentum of the men carried 
their bodies forward, but the girPs pull held, 
and Goins crashed to the floor, dragging 
David down with him. The under man's 
head was beaten against the rock. A moan- 
ing sigh fluttered from between the coarse 
lips. The mighty arms unfolded and fell 
limply at his sides, as he lapsed into uncon- 
sciousness. 

Elizabeth sprang to her feet, exultant, re- 
vivified by the downfall of the man she hated. 
For a moment, she regarded the ugly, flaccid 
face with mingled scorn and detestation. 
Then she put her hand on the shoulder of 
David, who was getting to his feet slowl; 




THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 187 

rather at a loss to understand the sudden- 
ness of his victory, just when he had aban- 
doned hope. He was wholly ignorant of 
Elizabeth ^s part in the affair, and took it for 
granted that his opponent had stumbled and 
so fallen. 

* * Let us go, * ' Elizabeth said gently. There 
was coldness in her tones as she spoke again. 
**He^ll recover in time, probably. His sort 
is hard to kill.*' 

The two went forth from the cavern to- 
gether. As they came into the clean, clear 
light without, it was as if they shook off from 
their souls a miasma bred by that other's 
presence. 

**Your coming saved me, David,'* the girl 
said very softly, and the music of her voice 
was vibrant with tenderness; ** saved me 
from worse than death.'' 

It was true that his coming had resulted 
in her salvation. It was true, also, that his 
coming would have availed nothing at all 
without her interposition at the crucial mo- 
ment But of that she said nothing to him— 
either then, or ever. 



'■^: 




■-r* 



CHAPTER XVn 

THE two covered the miles almost in 
silence. Neither dared speak much con- 
cerning what had just occurred from fear of 
self-betrayaL Each of them was drawn 
closer to the other by the peril to which the 
girl had been exposed. To Elizabeth, after 
contact with the vileness of Goins, the clean 
manliness of David became more magnetic 
by contrast She longed for his embrace and 
his kisses as an anodyne for the polluting 
touch to which she had been subjected. But 
she realized with a new and keener pang of 
sorrow that the mysterious barrier still 
reared itself between her and him. It seemed 
indeed more than ever formidable, inexor- 
ably shutting him away from her, making 
him remote and unattainable. His face, when 
she stole a look at it from time to time, was 
sternly set, and his eyes were studiously 
averted. Her first elation over having es- 
caped in safety from a frightful danger, 

188 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 189 

subsided^ and in its stead came a pervasive 
misery. Her heart was aching for the solace 
of love, which was denied her. A bitter 
spirit of revolt stirred in her. She was 
tempted to cry out, to demand an explana- 
tion from this man, who went with sealed 
lips always, though he loved her. But she 
fought down the impulse, and rode on in a 
silence that was filled with despair. 

David fought even a fiercer fight, and his 
victory over himself was at the cost of quiv- 
ering nerves and a tortured heart. The sight 
of this girl in the arms of Goins had re- 
vealed to him with a new and startling clarity 
her preciousness to him. It was only because 
for the time being his energies had been con- 
sumed in the struggle with the Croatan that 
he did not take her in his arms, and pour 
out to her all his heart in words and Hsses. 
As his bodily strength was restored, his will, 
too, recruited its forces, and he was able to 
hold himself in mastery. His loyalty to 
Ruth still persisted, and the power of it was 
such as to curb any expression of the present 
passion for another. The simplicity of the 
mountaineer was incapable of solving the 
puzzle offered by his own nature. He was 



190 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

utterly baflSied by the problem of his moods. 
He still thought as tenderly as ever of Buth. 
It seemed to him that he loved her as dearly 
as before. Yet here he found himself all 
tremulous with longing for this other woman. 
His primitive mind knew nothing whatsoever 
of subtleties concerning magnetisms and 
propinquities and the mounting instincts of 
his own manhood. He went in silence, since 
silence seemed the only decent thing for him, 
but the effort to maintain it racked his soul 
with anguish. 

The two had come almost to the encamp- 
ment when the princess spoke decisively. 

**Don^t say anything about this to pappy.*' 

**But — *' David would have expostulated. 

Elizabeth, however, interrupted him. 

* * Charlie has had his lesson, ' * she declared, 
confidently. *'I told him I*d never marry 
him. So he knows now. There *s no telling 
what pappy might do if he knew about if 

David was doubtful as to the wisdom of 
the girPs decision, but he accepted it. His 
own opinion by no means coincided with that 
of Elizabeth. He regarded Goins as quite 
capable of making further mischief, and that 
of the gravest sort. He said nothing of this 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 191 

to the princess, however. She was already 
on her guard, and to excite additional alarm 
could serve no good purpose. He had half 
a mind to tell the facts privately to Lowrie 
in spite of the daughter's prohibition, but 
finally decided that to do so would be in the 
nature of treachery to her. 

So, the chief remained in entire ignorance 
of his lieutenant 's evil conduct. He was only 
a little disgusted with the fellow's clumsi- 
ness, when, next day, Goins turned up in the 
encampment with a bandaged head, which he 
explained by a bad fall on the rocks — ^the 
exact truth, without details. He had re- 
turned in much trepidation, fearful as to 
what might befall him at the hands of an 
outraged father, and his relief was corre- 
spondingly great when he discovered that 
the chief was in ignorance of what had 
occurred at the cavern. But he wondered 
mightily as to the cause of this reticence on 
the girPs part — ^for he rightly attributed the 
result to her decision. And soon his specula- 
tions found food for vanity. It occurred to 
him that his violence had, after all, affected 
the princess in his favor. His abnormal 
egotism found nothing absurd in this fancy. 



192 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

On the contrary, it seemed quite reasonable 
to his warped mind. He cherished it until 
it became a fixed delusion. He recognized 
that the stranger was still a rival to be 
reckoned with. But he convinced himself 
that, with this obstacle removed, he would 
be able to establish himself easily enough in 
the girPs good graces. He took much com- 
fort from the fact that in the contest with 
David he had proved himself the better man 
before the eyes of the princess. She had 
seen him with his adversary practically at 
his mercy, and she could have had no doubt 
as to the issue of the battle between them 
but for her interference. For Goins had been 
aware of Elizabeth's action against him, 
which had been the cause of his overthrow. 
He cherished no grudge against her on that 
account, but rather an increased admiration 
for her strength and daring. The result of 
his slow and difficult cogitations was to leave 
him certain that he could win the girl to his 
will, once David was removed. How that 
removal was to be effected thenceforth en- 
gaged his whole attention, and he plotted 
with the unscrupulousness that was char- 
acteristic of him. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 193 

For that matter, David himself was simi- 
larly occupied in plamiing his own removal 
from the scene. He feared for his strength 
in the constant struggle of self-repression 
which he was waging. It seemed to him that 
hourly his powers of resistance were lessen- 
ing. It became momently more difficult for 
him to refrain from full confession to Eliza- 
beth. He distrusted the stability of his will. 
He did not hesitate in his loyalty of purpose 
toward Ruth, but he became suspicious of 
his weakness. It occurred to him that his 
only safety lay in flight. Once this idea took 
possession of him, he dwelt on it as offering 
the one possible solution of his perplexities. 
He considered the matter for a day, and be- 
came assured that only by such a retreat 
could he safeguard himself from despicable 
treachery. He chose to make his purpose 
known first to the father, rather than to the 
daughter, in order to avoid complications. 

He took an opportunity to speak when he 
and the chief were alone together. The old 
man heard him through patiently, but his 
comment disconcerted the mountaineer. 

** Jist stuff an' nonsense f' he rumbled, and 
his voice was edged with disdain. **Thar 



194 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

hain^t no call fer ye t' think abont movin* on 
fr*m hyar fer qnite a spell yif 

**Bnt there ^s reasons why I got t' go,'* 
David protested. He decided that a part 
of the truth might serve to convince his 
hearer. * * There *s a debt what I Ve got t ' pay 
right soon. I set out t' earn that-there 
money, an' it*s time I was busy a-doin' of 
it.'' 

**If thet's all thet's a-bitin' on ye," Lowrie 
responded with a guffaw that set the crock- 
ery on the shelves to dancing, **why, by 
cripes, I'll fix ye out right hyar. I was jist 
a-thinkin' o' offerin' t' hire ye, an' hyar 
ye come a-tellin' as how ye want a job. I 
kin use a young feller like you-all. How'd 
thutty dollars a month an' yer victuals strike 
yet" 

The words fairly stunned David. He 
stared aghast at the chief, unable for the 
moment to formulate any response. Nor did 
reflection suggest any method of extricating 
himself from the dilemma presented by 
Lowrie 's offer. Apart from the complica- 
tions caused by his feeling toward Elizabeth, 
this opportunity to earn the money he needed 
would have been altogether satisfactory, for 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 195 

the wages were much beyond what he could 
have expected elsewhere. He could hit on no 
adequate excuse for a refusal. There was 
indeed no reason for objection to the proposi- 
tion, save the secret one, that it would hold 
him in an intolerable situation. But he 
could not explain the fuU truth to the girPs 
father, and, because he could not, he was left 
defenseless against the elder man's satisfac- 
tion in the project as one already settled on. 
He could only mumble a few false phrases 
of gratefiil acknowledgment, which Lowrie 
took for acceptance. The chief attributed 
the young man's obvious confusion to a 
natural embarrassment over the boon so un- 
expectedly conferred. For a fleeting instant, 
David did think seriously of making known 
the predicament in which he was placed. But 
he dismissed the idea promptly because, 
somehow, it seemed to savor of injustice to- 
ward both the girls concerned. His decision 
might have been different, had he known that 
Lowrie was already aware of his love for 
Elizabeth. With the fatuousness customary 
among lovers, he nourished the delusion that 
he had kept the secret of his heart to him- 
self. He could not guess that the piercing 



196 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

eyes beneath the old man's shaggy brows had 
read the scroll of his emotions like a printed 
page. 

David, thus thwarted in his first purpose 
of an open departnre from the encampment, 
was driven to determine on a surreptitious 
flight. Snch a method was repellent to his 
native honesty. It seemed an ignominious 
thing to do. But he could discover no other 
way. He resolved to leave the encampment 
the coming night. Every hour near the 
princess now increased the strain upon his 
will, and it was very near the breaking i)oint. 
He was confirmed in his plan by a sudden 
suspicion as to the chief's attitude toward 
him. That suspicion was provoked by Low- 
rie's final utterance concerning their future 
relations. 

**Thutty dollars is a lot o' money, but I've 
got plenty salted away, an' so be I mought 
spend some on hit a-boostin' along a young 
feller what I took a shine ter. You-all 'pears 
t' me a pretty-likely sort o' chap, David." 
He chuckled contentedly. **No tellin' how 
fur ye might git, boy, with Henry Lowrie t' 
back ye." 

David found an opportunity, later that day, 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 197 

when he was alone in the living-room, to se- 
cure a sheet of notepaper and a pencil. Then 
he went away by himself into the forest, and 
there, with a smooth stone for a desk, he 
wrote a note to leave for the father and 
daughter, whom he meant to desert by 
stealth. The composition of the missive 
taxed his ingenuity to the utmost, and, when 
he had finally finished the writing, he was 
disgusted with the restdt, yet quite unable 
to devise anything better. He put the mes- 
sage in his pocket, and went back to the en- 
campment, feeling like a criminal. He found 
the cabin empty, and improved the occasion 
by a raid on the larder, where he gathered 
together scant supplies of bacon, flour and 
coffee. He took the least possible allowance, 
feeling like a thief the while. He knew that 
he had no choice, however, for nothing of 
his own was left from the river, not even 
his rifle. He made a small parcel of the food, 
and concealed it where it would be unlikely 
to be discovered against the time of his de- 
parture. 

Lowrie, on his return to the cabin, was 
boisterously merry, in high feather over hav- 
ing come to an arrangement with the young 



198 THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 

man. When Elizabeth appeared, he made 
the fact known to her in manifest expecta- 
tion of enthusiastic approbation on her part. 
Nor was he disappointed — ^at the outset. The 
girl regarded David *s acceptance of her 
father's offer as a proof that the barrier 
between them would be somehow removed, 
and she was filled with delight as new hope 
flooded her. She turned to David with shin- 
ing eyes and her lips bending into a happy 
smile. 

**0h, that will be splendid, David!" she 
said simply. The cadences in her voice were 
very tender. * * I am so glad ! ' ' 

David could do no more than stammer an 
unintelligible acknowledgment. He felt more 
than ever like a criminal — ^the thief of this 
girPs heart 

Elizabeth wondered over the lack of re- 
sponsiveness in David, at first without par- 
ticular concern, but soon with a suspicion 
that, after all, things were not quite as they 
should be. The suspicion grew into a cer- 
tainty as the time passed, and the young 
man appeared taciturn and distrait. He 
plainly avoided her attempts to draw him 
into conversation; refused even to meet her 



' THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 199 

glances. The father *s good spirits blinded 
him to his guest's somber mood, but the lov- 
ing eyes of the daughter took note of every 
detail, and again her sorrow weighed heavily 
upon her, for she perceived that the barrier 
still stood between her and David ; a barrier 
of which she knew nothing except that it was 
sinister and impregnable. It was with a new 
and stronger despair pressing upon her 
spirit that she early said good-night, and 
went to her room ; there to wrestle with her 
trouble in that infinite and terrible loneliness 
which comes to one who loves in vain. 

And the despair in David's soul, as he 
watched her go, was neither greater than 
hers, nor less, but like unto it; for he ex- 
pected never to look on her face again. 



CHAPTER XVni 

THAT same night, Charlie Goins sat late 
alone, holding communion with him- 
self and seeking inspiration for nefarious 
schemes from frequent drafts of colorless 
moonshine out of his brown jug. But the 
inspiration failed of an effect satisfactory to 
him, though he drank deep, as was his habit 
often. His iron body showed no ill effect 
from his excesses. The fiery liquor seemed 
to do little more than quicken his movements 
and stimulate his brain, so that wild ideas 
came thronging. Each in turn, however, was 
speedily rejected for one reason or another. 
It was his purpose to remove the stranger 
from his path, but he meant to do this in 
such a manner as to avoid the chief's suspi- 
cion of his having any part in the affair. 
Hate counseled murder, but prudence for- 
bade. It was near midnight when, at last, 
he hit on a plan that promised to be ade- 
quate. He decided that, with the help of his 

200 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 201 

most intimate crony, Jeames Viccars, he 
would ambush his enemy, take him prisoner, 
and deliver him up to the authorities at 
Salisbury as one who had been actively en- 
gaged in assisting a Union soldier to escape 
from the prison. Goins reflected that in this 
way he would dispose of his rival for an in- 
definite time, and perhaps be paid a sum of 
money in addition. He gulped down a huge 
swig of the spirits in celebration of his hav- 
ing finally reached a decision, and started to 
awaken Viccars, who shared the cabin with 
him, in order to make definite plans for the 
morrow. 

The sudden barking of a dog caused Goins 
to stop, and listen, for the sound came from 
close at hand, and he recognized the note of 
Lowrie^s favorite hound. He blew out the 
candle, and, going to the door, pushed it open 
softly, and peered out. The moon had just 
risen. By its Kght, he made out a shadow 
moving a little within the doorway of the 
chief's cabin, which was next to his own. 
The dog had ceased barking. Goins could 
hear the hiss of a whisper, and, a moment 
later, he saw the form in the doorway ad- 
vance, the dog beside it capering in friendly 



202 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

fashion. He could make out that the night 
prowler was a man. He knew, too, that the 
figure was not Lowrie's. While it was im- 
possible to distinguish clearly in the gloom, 
he guessed that this could be no other than 
the stranger. He was surprised and puzzled 
by the occurrence. He could not surmise the 
visitor *s object in this mysterious night 
sortie. Then he held his breath, for David 
>7as passing within a yard of him. It was now 
that he saw the parcel which the mountaineer 
carried. At sight of it, partial understand- 
ing came to the Croatan. It was plain that 
the visitor was making a stealthy departure 
from the encampment. The fact would have 
been incredible, but for the evidence before 
his eyes. It seemed that, without any effort 
whatsoever on his part, he was to be rid of 
his enemy. 

Goins was, notwithstanding, by no means 
content. On the contrary, he was made furi- 
ous by the thought that his foe should escape 
punishment at his hands. He watched 
eagerly, fairly shaking with the rage that was 
on.him. He could distinguish David's course 
down the cabin-lined street of the encamp- 
ment, which would lead on into the river 



THE HOMBWABD TBiSJL 203 

tteSL Abruptly, the Oroatan came to E de-^ 
termination. He pni^hed the door shut, and 
sprang to the bed on which Viccars lay 
snoring* 

**Wake up, mon!^' he exclaimed harshly, 
under his breath. 

A few rough shakes added to the exhorta- 
tion brought the sleeper to a sitting position, 
blinking and gaping. Under the insistence 
of Goins, Viccars was soon thoroughly awak- 
ened. He hurried into his clothes, while the 
other made rapid explanations. 

**Thet-thar cussed galoot is a-skinnin' out, 
an' I hain^t aimin' t' *low 'im t' sneak off 
without gittin' what's oomin' t' 'im. Well 
chase arter 'im, an' ketch 'im. Hurry I" 

It was hardly a minute after David's pass- 
ing the door, when the two men sallied out 
into the night in pursuit. They ran swiftly 
down the encampment street, but, when they 
reached the river trail, moved with noiseless 
tread, though still rapidly. From time to 
time they paused to listen. In one of these 
intervals, after they had gone half a mile or 
more through the forest^ they heard the 
sounds of David's advance, as he went care- 
lessly without any suspicion of being fol- 



204 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

lowed. The pursuers now moderated their 
pace, so as to keep within hearing distance, 
but sufficiently in the rear to escape detection. 

^^We^l foller till 'e halts/' Goins decided. 
**Then we'll steal up on 'im, an' jump 'im 
together. I got rawhides in my pocket, an' 
while I hold 'im, ye '11 tie 'im up." 

**An' then what ye goin' t' do with 'imf " 
Viccars demanded, in a hoarse whisper. 

**None o' yer business," Goins growled, 
in surly rebuke. * * An' besides, I hain''t made 
up my mind yit." 

At the fork in the trail as it came near the 
river, David swung into the branch that led 
southward, and behind him the pursuers 
kept their place. The three traveled steadily 
throughout the remaining hours of the night, 
and Goins had ample time in which to formu- 
late his further plans. He confirmed his 
earlier decision to take his enemy to Salis- 
bury as a prisoner, and made known his pur- 
pose to his assistant. Yet the virulence of 
his hatred made this project unsatisfactory 
to him, since he lusted to wreak vengeance 
with his own hands on the man who had 
humiliated him in the presence of his fel- 
lows. As he shambled forward, his heavily 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 205 

muscled fingers twitched from time to time 
in reflex from his fierce desire to be at the 
stranger's throat. 

Dawn was breaking when, at last, David 
made his camp within a sheltered glade at 
some distance from the trail itself. Goins 
and Viccars, moving with increased precau- 
tion, concealed themselves behind a shelter 
of thick-growing shrubs on the side of the 
glade furthest from the spot where David 
had established himself, and thence they 
watched his operations, in readiness to seize 
the most favorable moment for attack. 

**We'll jump *im when 'e's busy cookin', 
an' bent over, an' with 'is back t' us," Goins 
whispered. **When 1 nudge ye, come on." 

There was no hitch in the execution of the 
plan. David was on his knees before the 
fire which he had kindled, holding the sauce- 
pan over the flames, when the two men stole 
forth from their hiding place, and crept 
across the glade, their moccasined feet mov- 
ing soundlessly on the turf. It was not until 
they were almost upon him that David, un- 
warned by any noise, sensed their presence, 
and turned, startled. But it was too late. 
Even as his eyes took in the twin shapes 



206 THE HOMEWABD TEAIL 

balking darkly behind him in the gray lights 
the assailants leaped upon him. It was only 
a matter of seconds before his capture was 
folly effected. At the first onslaught, Goins 
clutched him in arms that were like bands of 
steel. David remembered that embrace, and 
realized, with a quick sensation of despair, 
that, for some inexplicable reason, he had 
fallen into the possession of Goins. The 
utter unexpectedness of the attack, too, dis- 
heartened him, so that, though he fought 
desperately, he had no hope of victory. He 
struggled the harder when he felt his hands 
drawn together by Goins' assistant, but he 
was powerless to prevent the binding of the 
rawhide around his wrists. His one moment 
of satisfaction was when the fellow attempted 
to tie his ankles together, and David caught 
him with a kick in the pit of the stomach, 
which doubled him up, gasping and groan- 
ing for five minutes before he could recover 
his breath, while Goins cursed him for his 
clumsiness. In his second attempt, however, 
Viccars was more cautious, and presently the 
two men let go of their victim, who lay help* 
less, bound hand and foot. 
**Thar, damn ye I*' Goins shouted, his voice 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 807 

rasping with vindictive triumph. "Tabfe 
thet!** he added^ and strnck a coward's blow 
full in David's face. **I'll Tarn ye a thing 
er two, afore I'm done with ye, ye Whelp!" 
He swaggered around tiie prostrate bmn, 
belching threats interlarded with oaths and 
obscenities. 

David listened in silence until, finally^ 
Qoins wearied. Then, he spoke f oir the first 
time, with a contemptuous drawL 

** Tears like ye must be a heap fonder of 
me than what ye say, if ye'r' iimin' t' keep 
me here jest as I wais a-leavin'." 

**I low they'll do the keepin' 6' y6 fer 
me down t' Salisbury prison," Goins re^ 
torted, ** They 're honin' t' git a holt on sich 
Tank'-runners as you-all. ' ' He added a list 
of unprintable epithets, to whi6h theit object 
appeared to give no heed whatsoever. 

As a matter of fact, David was occupied 
with an intense endeavor to evolve a meth6d 
of extrication from this new trouble into 
which he had fallen. Goins' words had made 
TiiTTi realize for the first time the danjyer tO 
which he was exposed at the hands of the 
Confederate atithorities for having aided the 
escape of a Union prisoner. Hitherto, he 



208 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

had carelessly regarded the affair with Mor- 
ris as a matter between him and his own 
conscience. Now, however, he was forced to 
recognition of the fact that his impetuous 
act in assisting the fugitive was a disloyal 
procedure, for which he might have to pay 
a serious penalty. It was evident that, in 
order to avoid danger from this source, he 
must first of all contrive to escape from his 
present captivity. How to accomplish this, 
however, was a question beyond his powers 
to answer. He stopped his ears to the taunts 
and jeers of Goins, while he concentrated his 
whole mind on the problem, but he could find 
no way out. There were two against him; 
he was bound and helpless in their power. 
His final conclusion was that he must wait 
with what patience he could command in the 
hope of an opportunity being offered some- 
where along the way. At least, he reflected, 
his captors must untie his feet before setting 
forth on the long march to Salisbury. 

Presently, despite his intention of not 
listening, David caught something that Goins 
was saying. 

**A puny darn' pup what has t' git a 
woman t ' fight f er 'im ! ' ' were the words that 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 209 

arrested the mountaineer's attention. He 
flared instantly, for he was sure that some 
reference to Elizabeth was meant, although 
he could not understand the implication. 

** What's thatf he demanded sharply. 

Goins grinned eviUy, pleased over having 
provoked his prisoner to a display of interest. 

**I was tellin' ye what a wuthless kind o' 
critter ye be,'' he declared truculently. **Ye 
wa'n't able t' stan' up t' me like a mon, but 
hed t' beller fer he'p fr'm a gal." 

** That's a lie I" David answered; and he 
believed that it was. 

Goins sneered. 

* * Thar in the cliff I hed ye as I wanted ye. 
I'd 'a' bust ye in a minute more, if so be 
'Liz'beth hedn't kotched me by the leg, an' 
trun me — ^the sassy cat I" 

** It's a lie," David repeated. But now his 
voice lacked conviction, and the Croatan was 
quick to notice the change. He stared at his 
captive malevolently, and then his loose lips 
twisted in a derisive grin. 

*' Cussed if I don't believe ye never knew 
she grabbed me." He roared with laughter, 
the mockery in which brought a shamed 
flush to David's cheeks. ** An' she never toP 



i 



210 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

ye. She sure is a buster, thet-thar gal. She 
let ye go on thinkin' ye ^as quite some 
punkius fer a fighter. Why, ye blasted 
sucker, I kin lambast the tar out o' ye any 
day in the week with one han'. An' ye 
thought ye licked me all by yer lil' own self. 
Hoi hoi ho I^' 

The burst of scornful laughter was echoed 
by the faithful Viccars. 

There was a sincerity in the Croatan's 
voice that compelled belief on David's part, 
reluctant as he was to admit the truth, that 
he had been saved in the conflict by the in- 
tervention of the princess. But out of the 
whirling confusion of his thoughts an idea 
stood forth for use in this emergency. He 
acted upon it without an instant of delay. 
His voice when he spoke again had a different 
tone, resonant with insolent challenge. 

**Ye'r' jest a natural-bom liar, Goins. I 
showed ye up afore yer whole tribe. An* 
ye'r' lyin' 'bout what happened in the cave, 
where I whipped ye good an' fair, so ye come 
orawlin' home next day with yer head in a 
rag. An' when ye come arter me now, ye 
had to bring somebody t' he'p ye. Ye hainH 
got sand t' tackle yer dirty work alone arter 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 211 

the lessoh 1 give yer there in the cave, Ye'r' 
a liar an* a blowhard, an' ye oan't fight fer 
shucks. I know, 'cause IV fit ye, an* licked 
ye, an' tain't no man's job, nuther." 

Goins became apoplectic imder the gibes. 
He was wounded in his most sensitive part, 
vanity over his physical prowess. 0?he re- 
st^itment that flamed hot in him destroyed 
all discretion. He gave way to a frenzy of 
murderous hate. 

**I'll show ye I" he screamed. ^^I'll I'arn 
ye what Charlie Goins kin do. 1*11 Mil ye 
with my two ban's, an* chuck yer body back 
inter the river ye come out on. I say, I'll 
kill ye, damn ye t' hell." 

^*When I^ tied up, an' with yer man t' 
he^p ye," David sneered. 

The taunt drove the Croatan distracted. 
He threw off his coat, and leaped upon it. 
His face was black with rage, the features 
ifv^orking horribly. 

*<Oat 'im loose I" he shouted to Viccars. 

**0h, hell J" David drawled, with an in- 
flection of contempt calculated to madden the 
Croatan still further. **Quit yer bluflSn'. 
Ye don't dast. Ye'r' plumb scairt o' 
me." 



212 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

**Cut 'im loose— -cut 'im loose!" Goins re- 
peated furiously. 

Viccars went forward obediently, though 
with evident reluctance. He would have ven- 
tured a protest, but Goins silenced him. A 
moment later, the blade of his clasp-knife 
sheared through the thongs at David's wrists 
and ankles. Viccars sprang aside, as the re- 
leased prisoner came to his feet with a bound, 
and in the same instant Goins bore down with 
a shriek of triumph. 

The mountaineer had not been in duress 
long enough to stiffen the muscles, and he 
easily stepped aside from the Croatan's rush. 
The momentum of his plunge carried Goins 
for a rod or more across the glade before 
he could check himself. As he turned to at- 
tack again, he heard a wijd cry from Viccars. 

Facing about, he halted in his tracks, and 
stared, astounded. His henchman was danc-. 
ing about in wild excitement, yelling unin- 
telligibly. There was no one else within the 
glade. The prisoner had vanished. 



CHAPTEE XIX 

THE man is a fool who lets vanity stand 
in his way at a crisis. David was no 
fool. He had never been a coward; he had 
never fled from a foe. Bnt, when the great 
idea sprang np in his brain, he welcomed it, 
and acted npon it without a thought of ig- 
nominy. He played upon Goins' foible. He 
deliberately taimted the fellow into a frenzy, 
in the hope that this frenzy would lead to 
folly, as it did. David knew that his strategy 
exposed him to the peril of death at the 
hands of the Croatan. The risk did not daunt 
him. He accepted it gladly because it offered 
the sole possibility of escape. He matched 
his wits against his enemy's brute force. He 
had no feeling of shame over his device, 
which was based on running away from the 
danger. Shame did not touch him then or 
thereafter for his preference of flight to de- 
struction. So, when Goins hurled himself 
forward, David, having dodged the rush, 

213 : 



214 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

took to his heels in the opposite direction. 
Before Viccars had divined his purpose, he 
had crossed the glade, and was swallowed 
up in the wood. By the time Goins had 
learned the truth, his intended victim was a 
full two hundred yards off. The Croatans 
gave chase as best they could, but their pace 
was slow compared with that of the fugitive, 
and Goins wasted his breath in squealing 
anathemas on him who fled. 

David was a swift runner. Accui^tonied to 
thfe woods as he was, he had no difficulty iA 
traveling fast and far. His best speed Was 
maintained steadily for a half-hour. At thft 
expiration of that time, he was conviAced 
that he had eluded his pursuers, and that 
with due precaution against surprise h6 
Would be safe. His exertions had strained 
him to the utmost, and he sought a itetf^t 
within the shelter of a clump of bushes, 
where he might be undiscovered even by any 
one passing within a few yards of him* 
There he stretched himself on the turf to 
rest his heaving lungs and aching muscles. 
When he had rested sufficiently, he went for- 
ward agAin, treading quietly and with ^yes 
watchful for any emergency. 



THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 215 

David ^s course was chosen with reluctance, 
but, once the decision was made, he advanced 
resolutely, despite the quahus that assailed 
him. He had determined to return to the 
Croatan encampment There were a number 
of reasons for this. In the first place, sordid 
necessity compelled him. His small quantity 
of supplies remained behind him in the glade 
where he had been set upon by Goins and 
Viccars. To return in search of the food 
would be to invite another encounter with 
the Croatan. Moreover, he doubted his 
ability to retrace his steps to the glade. 

As a matter of fact, however, the lost ra- 
tions hardly figured in his calculations. His 
attention was given, rather, to the necessity 
of making kaown all the facts to Chief Low- 
rie. His adventure had given him a new 
knowledge of Goins* dangerous qualities. 
He regretted his promise to Elizabeth of 
silence concerning the lieutenant's attack on 
her in the cavern. He meant to break that 
promise at the earliest opportunity. For the 
girl's sake, the father must be warned. 

David realized that it would be necessary 
also to explain his own secret departure. He 
hated the confession this would involve^ but 



216 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

he was in no mood for half-measures, and 
vowed to make a clean breast of it. The 
trath might be — ^indeed, would be — ^trying to 
all concerned, but it offered the only 
means of relief. There must be no further 
deceit. 

David *s first rapid flight had led him north- 
ward toward the encampment. Afterward, 
he walked swiftly, and it was not yet noon 
when he approached his destination. He was 
just rounding a bend in the river-trail less 
than half a mile from the settlement, when 
he was startled by a sudden clatter of hoofs, 
and a horseman came galloping toward him. 
It was Chief Lowrie himself, who, at sight of 
David, pulled his horse to its haunches, and 
let out a great roar of joyous greeting. 

"Why, David boy, consam yel'^ he rum- 
bled. **Whar in Tunket ye been!*' The 
heavy features were radiant with welcome. 
**We jist nacherly caPlated ye was 
plumb losted. Whar in aill 'nation hev ye 
beenf 

David answered promptly, though his em- 
barrassment was painfully evident in his 
flushed face and in the hesitant tone with 
which he spoke. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 217 

**I set out t' leave the camp last night,'' 
he explained. ** There's reasons why I 
conldn't take up with yer offer. I left a 
note fer ye an' 'Liz'beth. But I didn't 
rightly tell ye all my reason in that-there 
writin'." 

**Fust I've heam tell o' any note," Lowrie 
asserted. His features had become forbid- 
ding. **Mebbe 'Liz'beth come on hit, an' 
was aimin' not t' tell me anythin' till she 
got good an' ready." 

*'I 'low I'U have t' tell ye all about it," 
David returned miserably. * *But first I want 
t' warn ye 'g'inst that-there pesky Charlie 
Goins." 

**What the devil is Charlie Goins t' you- 
all!" The chief's manner was now suddenly 
menacing. 

**It's a devil of a lot t' you-all," David 
retorted, with spirit. **I come on him over 
there in Idz'beth's cave, where he'd fol- 
lowed her, unbeknownst to her. She'd kind 
o' fainted like, an' he was carryin' her in 
his arms when I got there. He drapped her, 
an' we fit, an' went down together, an' he 
got his head broke agin the rock, an' so 
'Liz'beth an' me come away." 



218 THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 

The chief's face was contorted with rage, 
and the black eyes blazed. 

**Why didn't ye tell me this aforef he 
demabd^d. 

** 'Cause 'Liz'beth made me promise not 
t' say anything about it," David re- 
plied. 

**I'll I'am 'im t' lay ban's on my darter — 
an' 'er unwillin'," Lowrie said, less loudly 
than he usually spoke; but his voice was 
ominous. * * Hain 't seen nothin ' o ' 'im t '-day. 
So be, ye didn't 'appen t' run inter 'im any- 
whar, did ye!" 

David smiled wryly. 

*'Not edzakly," he stated. **But he run 
inter me. Fact is, he kotched me^ an ' planned 
t' take me t' Salisbury, an' give me up there. 
But I got away." 

**I don't understan' hit a tall," Lowrie re- 
sponded, frowning heavily. **But I under- 
stan' enough t' make me want t' git my 
hooks on thet-thar snake, an' scotch 'im. 
Got an idear whar's 'e's att" 

David shook his head. 

* * Some 'res off there, I reckon. ' ' He wared 
his hand toward the south. **I 'low he an* 
the feller with him are some fur behind. 



THE HOMEWARD TBAlL 6ld 

bein^ as how I streaked it tight smart arter 
I got away.'* 

**I*11 round *iin up mighty soon,'* the chief 
grated. With the words, he wheeled his 
horse, and went clattering back toward the 
encampment. 

David followed at a leisurely gait. He 
had gone less than half a mile, when he drew 
aside from the trail in order to let a caval- 
cade of the Croatans sweep past him. Each 
of the horsemen carried a rifle, and at the 
head of the company rode Lowrie himself, 
his massive features set in lines of vindictive 
purpose. 

The party passed without paying any ap- 
parent heed to the wayfarer. David went 
forward again, and soon reached the encamp- 
ment, where he entered the chief's cabin. As 
he pushed the door shut behind him, he saw 
Elizabeth sitting at the little table, with her 
head bowed on her arms. She looked up at 
the sound of the door closing. Then she 
sprang to her feet, and stood staring, her 
eyes darkly luminous through a film of tears, 
her cheeks pallid beneath their golden tint. 
She neither moved nor spoke during long 
moments, while David^ too> stood motionlesSi 



220 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

regarding her with all his heart in the stead- 
fast gaze. At last, the girl's breath exhaled 
in a long-drawn sigh where many and poign- 
ant emotions mingled. 

**David!'' she whispered doubtfully. It 
was as if she could not believe yet in the 
real ty of his presence there with her. 

Dimd went toward her. He went slowly, 
almost as if reluctantly, as if compelled 
against his will by some invisible force that 
was stronger than he. Yet, for all this seem- 
ing of reluctance, a supreme delight thrilled 
in his blood. He had thought never to look 
on her face again. And now she was there 
before him. His glances could feast their fill 
on her loveliness. The joy of the moment 
shone in his expression. The sight of it 
warmed her like a rich wine of life. She 
knew that this was no phantom conjured up 
by her longing, but the man himself in the 
flesh, the man whom she loved ; and she knew 
as well that he loved her. She took a step 
to meet him, and then, without any intention 
on the part of either, they were in each 
other 's arms. Elizabeth's hands were clasped 
about David's neck. He held her dose, and 
their hearts beat together in the rapture of 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 221 

that embrace. Elizabeth's face was hidden 
in his bosom. David bent his head, and his 
lips touched the dusky tendrils of hair, whose 
fragrance steeped his senses in ecstasy. 
There was no word between them for a long 
time, nor any further caress. 

Presently, Elizabeth stirred, and sighed 
again — a sigh of exquisite happiness. Then, 
very slowly, she withdrew herself from 
David's arms. She looked up at him, her 
eyes aglow with adoration, her lips curving 
in a smile of infinite content. 

* * I read your letter. It said you must go. 
I thought I'd never see you again, David. 
I couldn't understand anything — only I suf- 
fered — oh, so horribly I And now you're 
here, David I And I am — oh, so happy!" 

Somehow, her frank expression of pleasure 
in his presence awoke the mountaineer from 
his dream of bliss. He recalled, with a sick- 
ening dismay, the obligation that must hold 
him apart from her who had so gladly come 
into his arms. The radiance went out of his 
face ; it became drawn and haggard. 

The girl, watching him so intently, saw 
the change, and was terrified by it. She saw 
the despair looking out at her from his eyes. 



222 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

A like despair fell on her hearty and blotted 
out all its joy. She knew that the barrier, 
which for a few blessed moments she had 
wholly forgotten, still stood, immutable, be- 
tween her and him. 



CHAPTEB XX 

DAVID fairly ached for the relief of full 
explanation to this girl, whom, he felt, 
he had wronged by his silence hitherto. But 
he found himself tongue-tied, stricken dumb 
by the suffering written on her face. There 
followed a period of painful indecision on 
the part of both, in which no word was 
spoken. It was Elizabeth who, at last, shook 
herself free from the spell of constraint that 
held them mute. She turned toward David 
with a look of reproach, and spoke in a voice 
of cold accusation. 

**You told pappy about Charlie — ^there in 
the cave. You promised you wouldn't/' 

David welcomed the diversion to any topic 
rather than the one that so troubled his spirit. 
He felt no reproach in this matter of having 
advised the chief of the truth concerning 
Goins, and so answered confidently. 

**I jest had t' tell yer pappy, 'cause that- 
there Goins ain't noways a safe critter t' 

223 



224 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

have around loose. When I found lie was 
irillin' t' kill me, I woke np enough t' know 
as how he mi^t be dangerous f er you-all, 
toa" 

At the mountaineer's words, Elizabeth's 
hands went to her bosom in a gesture of 
alarm. Her eyes dilated as she regarded the 
speaker with new apprehension in her gaze. 

"Charlie tried to kill youf" she asked 
hurriedly. Her voice was trembling. 

"Why, yes," David replied. "I low there 
ain't no manner o' doubt about that Didn't 
yer pappy tell ye!" 

Elizabeth shook her head. 

"Xo," she declared; and her tone carried 
an inflection of dismay. "He was just boil- 
ing over about Charlie, but it was all about 
what happened over there at the river. I 
didn't know anything about this other matter 
between you and Charlie. Tell me," she in- 
sisted, "what was itf " 

David related the story of his adventure 
with Coins and Vicears. He was curious to 
know how Elizabeth would regard the ruse 
by which he had succeeded in making his 
escape. He was gratified by her comment 
when he came to the end. 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 225 

** Thank God/' she exclaimed tensely, **you 
were able to outwit him!*' She was silent 
for a few moments, thinking deeply, and from 
the expression on her face it was clear that 
her thoughts were not pleasant ones. When 
she spoke again, her voice was bitter. Her 
eyes flashed with a light that was stem, al- 
most cmel in its suggestion. ** Charlie has 
gone far enough, now,*' she said evenly. 
**You can leave him out of your calculations 
for the future. Pappy wiU attend to him.'' 
She smiled, and her face softened. **You 
see, David, it was because I know pappy so 
well that I made you promise not to say any- 
thing about what Charlie did. I thought 
Charlie had had his lesson, and would behave 
himself. I didn't want him punished by 
pappy in one of his rages. But now, since 
he's tried to Mil you" — ^her face grew for- 
bidding again — ^'^why, I don't care what 
pappy does to him. He can't be punished 
worse than he deserves." 

**Shucks!" David expostulated. "What 
he done t' me wa'n't nothin' so much t' git 
scairt about. I 'low I wouldn't have been so 
terrible af eared o' him — even if I did run 
away from him this momin'." 



226 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

But once more Elizabeth shook her head 
emphatically. 

** Charlie's not your sort/' she responded. 
Her lips were bent in a smile that was very 
tender, in spite of its sorrowful droop. '* You 
couldn't fight him, because he wouldn't fight 
fair. Likely as not, he'd shoot you in the 
back next time." 

Brave as he was, David shuddered. It was 
not pleasant to think of himself as treacher- 
ously done to death by this viUainous enemy. 
Yet he knew that the girl spoke truly, and 
that he was exposed to a very real peril. He 
welcomed the distraction afforded by the re- 
turn of the chief, who at this moment thrust 
open the cabin door, and burst into the room 
noisily. 

**Got 'im right smack off," were his first 
words, roared out in savage triumph. * * 'Im 
an' Viccars, both!" He shot a glance at 
David. **They wa'n't fur behind ye, young 
feller.'^ 

'*Then theyVe been brought int" Eliza- 
beth questioned. She was plainly heartened 
by the news that the offender against herself 
— and David — ^had been captured. 

The chief nodded. 



THE HOMEWABD TBATTj 227 

"Both hyar i^ the camp, under guard, an' 
waitin* fer me f pronounce jedgmint agin 
'em. Which same shall be jist as soon '9 J 
git over my mad— which I hain't done yit by 
a dmn' sight. But I'll be ca'm putty quick, 
an' then I'll administer jestice on them-thar 
two skunks. An' may God A 'mighty 'av^ 
mercy on their souls I" 

The Croatan girl, who was busy preparing 
the noonday meal, called to Elizabeth. ThQ 
two men were left alone together at one end 
of the long room. David improved the op- 
portunity to address the chief in tones care- 
fully lowered, so that the princess should not 
overhear, 

**I've got t' do some explainin' t' you-all, 
chief," he said, with very evident embarrass- 
ment. **I said in that-there letter I wrotQ 
as how I had t' go away. I didn't 3ay right 
out why. Now, I 'low as how I ought t' tell 
ye the whole business, an' I want a chance 
t' speak my mind when Elizabeth ain't about, 
seein' it has somethin' to do with her." 

Lowrie fastened a piercing stare on the 
mountaineer, who avoided it, and was mani- 
festly ill at ease under the scrutiny. 

**I lum t' hear all what ye got t' say," he 



228 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

mumbled. **But this-hyar other thing has 
got t' be 'tended ter fust. I reckon I'm 
putty-nigh cooled off enough now t' act as 
jedge. Leastways, I caPlate I kin keep my 
ban's off thet-thar snake when 'e stan's up 
afore me — ^which is a heap more'n 'e*s got 
any right t' expect arter layin' 'is dirty 
fingers on my gal. ' ' At the words, the black 
eyes flamed with such wrath that David real- 
ized in a measure the mighty passion which 
was held in restraint. 

The chief said nothing more, but turned 
and strode out of the cabin. The mountaineer 
followed him, partly to avoid being left with 
Elizabeth, since he did not yet feel able to 
make his revelation to her; and partly in 
order to be a spectator at this scene of primi- 
tive justice which was about to be enacted. 

Lowrie came to a halt on the level stretch 
of sward before the cabin, and gave an order 
to one of his men, who was waiting near at 
hand. 

** Bring out the pris'ners." 

The fellow addressed passed the word 
along. There was a stir among the group of 
men gathered before one of the cabins a little 
way down the line. The door was opened. 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 229 

and the two captives appeared, shambling 
along, their hands tied behind their backs, 
surrounded by armed guards. When the 
party reached the chief, it came to a stand- 
still, with the two guilty men facing the auto- 
crat. They stood with hang-dog mien, slouch- 
ing forlornly, their eyes on the ground. It 
was plain that they had no hope of mercy. 
David, from an inconspicuous position be- 
hind the circle of Croatans, could see Low- 
rie's face, and he winced at sight of the 
ferocity that showed there. It was on Goins 
that the chief's fierce eyes were fixed. Not 
once did he glance toward the cringing Vic- 
cars. The other members of the tribe awaited 
the outcome in a mixture of emotions — ^be- 
wilderment and pleasure being the most con- 
spicuous. All of them were deeply impressed 
by the disgrace of Goins, who, after their 
leader, had been the principal man. in the 
tribe. A few particular friends of the lieu- 
tenant were genuinely distressed over his 
downfall, but for the mo§t part his fellow 
tribesmen were gratified by the calamity 
fallen on one who had harshly lorded over 
tliem. Lowrie explained as much of the mat- 
ter as he chose with blunt directness. 



230 ME fiOMEWAED TRAIL 

**1 made this-hyar skunk, Charlie Goins, 
my lieutenant, 'cause I trusted 'im. Now, 
IVe Parned ^e hain^t fitten t' be trusted 
^'s sneakin' an' treacherous an' plumb 
ornery. Las' night 'e an' 'is man, Jeames 
hyar, jumped on the young feller what's been 
visitin' me. Jist what 'e meant t' do with 
'im, I dunno, an' I don't keer. Hit's enough 
thet 'e meant mischief t' my guest. 'E'll be 
punished fer thet. They's Other thin's, but 
I hain't aimin' t' say nothin' 'bout them." 
He was silent for a few seconds, his features 
working convulsively. But he controlled 
himself, and, as he spoke again, the booming 
notes came without a tremor. *^I hereby 
sentence Charlie Goins and Jeames Viccars 
to be flogged — ^fif ty lashes each. ' ' He turned 
to a man standing near. ** Bring three mule- 
whips," he ordered. 

Not a sound broke the quiet during the 
short interval until the whips were brought. 
Then, Lowrie took the whips, which were of 
the usual sort, with short stocks, tippe'd with 
two yards of braided rawhide. He stepped 
forward, and held out one of the whips to 
Goins, who took it mechanically, a^ if doubt* 
ful of the chief 'ft purpose. A second whip 



THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 23X 

was taken reluctantly by Viccars. The chief 
himself retained the third whip. He re- 
turned to his former position, facing the men 
from a little distance. 

**Now, stan' two paces apart/' he con- 
tinued. 

The cowed men placed themselves obedi- 
ently. Their faces displayed a growing appre- 
hension. The encircling crowd of Croatan^ 
grinned appreciatively as they guessed their 
leader's design. Lowrie spoke contempt- 
uously. 

**I don't want none o' the tribe t' dirty 
their ban's on sich scum as you-alL So, I 
cal'late t' 'ave ye whip each other. An' ye'U 
make a good job of hit, er I'll know the rea- 
son why. ' ' 

(Joins' spirit flared in a momentary revolt 
He looked up for the first time, and hl9 
beady eyes were like those of a cornered 
rat 

**I won't do hitl" he gritted between 
clenched teeth; and, with a curse, he Imrled 
the whip to the ground. 

Lowrie 's gaze met his lieutenaixt 's squarely. 
Something in their depths warned the zyiutv 
neer, and turned him coward again. 



232 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

** Ye'll whip each other, and lay hit on good, 
er I'll flog the two on ye myself. An* if I 
do,*' he added, and his voice roughened 
savagely, as he swung the whip aloft, *'by 
God, I'll lay on with all my strength.** 

There was a short period of hesitation, 
during which the two condemned men eyed 
each other askance. It was Goins who made 
the first decisive movement, for he stooped 
and picked up his whip. He had been thor- 
oughly intimidated by what he had read in 
the chief's eyes. He knew that his outrage 
against the daughter had come to the ears 
of the father, and that only by strength of 
will was Lowrie holding his wrath in check. 
Goins felt those vengeful eyes still flaming 
on hun, though he held his face averted. 
Under their influence, he was compelled to 
obey the decree uttered by the chief. He 
raised his arm, and struck. There was no 
wilful energy in the action, but Goins was a 
man of exceptional strength, and, without de- 
liberate intention on his part, the lash hissed 
sharply through the air, and fell heavily 
across Viccars * back. A stain of red showed 
through the thin cotton shirt. The fellow 
leaped high with a shrill cry of pain. The 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 233 

whip fell from his hand; he volleyed curses 
against his assailant. 

**Pick hit np. Hit's yer turn t' strike/' 
Lowrie growled. 

Of a sudden, Viccars' wrath perceived its 
opportunity. He snatched up the whip, and 
swung it viciously, with all his might. The 
rawhide twined about Goins' body, and 
brought the blood. The stinging hurt of it 
made the lieutenant forget for the time be- 
ing everything except the immediate cause. 
His eyes glared murderously at his crony. 
He struck his second blow with a will. The 
lash bit deep into Viccars' flesh, and evoked 
a howl of anguish. 

Angry before, the wretched victim was now 
half -crazed. He screamed curses, plying his 
whip the while with all the speed and force 
of which he was capable. Nor was Goins less 
violent and enraged. He, too, rained blows 
with frantic cruelty. By reason of Goins' 
superior muscles, Viccars suffered the more 
punishment. He was a gory spectacle for 
pity when, at last, the whip dropped from 
his nerveless hand, and he crumpled down 
on the ground, writhing and moaning in the 
torture of his wounds. Goins, indeed, was 



234 THE HOMBWABD TBAlL 

not in mnoh better case* The tatteted tags 
of his shirt were soaked crimson with bloody 
and he must have been suffering torment 
from the laceration of his flesh. But he re- 
tained strength enough of will and of body 
to dtand rigidly erect, still holding his whip, 
and scowling blackly. 

The circle of watchers, which had been held 
silent and motionless in the grip of excite- 
ment, now stirred, and a babel of voices burst 
forth. But there was an instant hush when 
the heavy voice of the chief again sounded. 

**Take 'em away,*' he commanded. **Hev 
the old women dress their wounds. Then 
put 'em on the worst two bosses we got, an' 
ride '^m ten mile down the river, an' turn 
'em lOode." He stared balefuUy at Going, 
who refused to meet his eyes. **The both o' 
ye are done with the tribe, fer always," he 
said, with the measured slowness of an 
authority that must be obeyed. * * Ye 'r ' t ' go, 
an' ye'r' never t' come back — ^neverl" 

He turned, and strode into the cabin, and 
shut the door behind him, while the guards 
olosed in on the two thus formally banished 
from their place and tribe. 

David went quickly away from the spot. 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 235 

He experienced a sKght nausea from the 
liideous scene he had just witnessed. He 
realized, with a sudden rush of homesickness, 
that these people were not his people, nor 
their ways his ways. He thought of Euth 
and the peaceful beauty of the orchard where 
he had kissed her. A great wave of longing 
swept over him. A vast loneliness settled 
upon him like a pall. He felt himself an 
alien, a stranger in a strange land, and very 
wretched. 



CHAPTER XXI 

WHILE David was strolling about the 
encampment in mid-afternoon, ab- 
sorbed in moody meditation on the wretched- 
ness of his situation, a messenger came sum- 
moning him to an interview with the chief. 
The mountaineer found Lowrie alone in the 
living-room of the cabin. He was greeted 
with a curt nod and a sweeping gesture of 
one huge hand toward a chair. No time was 
wasted in unnecessary preliminaries. The 
Croatan introduced the subject matter of the 
meeting with his first words. 

* * Ye said ye hed somethin' t ' tell me, young 
feller, ^out 'cause why ye wanted t* light 
out o' hyar so dum' sudden like. Wall, suh, 
now's yer chance. Spit hit ouf The keen 
eyes were fastened on the younger man in a 
look that was neither kindly nor hostile, 
rather it was coldly judicial. 

The inquisitorial stare disturbed David. 
There was no faintest trace of sympathy in 

236 




THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 237 

it; only an imperious demand for the truth, 
without reservation or extenuation. And the 
truth was not an easy thing to tell — ^to the 
father of the girl concerned. The guest felt 
a strong presentiment that he would fail in 
making a favorable statement of his case. 
Nevertheless, he called on the remnants 
of his courage, and began a rapid, some- 
what incoherent narration of the essential 
facts. 

**It's about yer daughter, 'Liz^beth, her as 
hauled me out o' the river,'' he began awk- 
wardly. ' * She 's a mighty fine gal, an ' I think 
a heap o' her. 'Tain't jest that I'm grate- 
ful t' her fer sayin' my life. There's all that 
— an' more. It was 'cause o' that — 'cause 
I was afraid I might be gittin^ t' care fer 
her too much that I made up my mind t' 
light out. Yes, that's the reason I sneaked 
off in the night." He halted, miserable and 
ashamed. 

Lowrie seized unerringly on the single 
word that contained a clue. 

" 'Fraidt" he repeated, with a frown. 
"Fer why was ye afearedt" 

David met the issue squarely. 

**I was af eared 'cause I was bound al- 



238 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

ready/' His voice lowered, and there was a 
reverent softness in it as he continued. 
** There's another gal back home. We're 
promised t* each other.'' 

A period of silence followed, in which each 
of the two men was busy with his own 
thoughts. David supposed that, of course, 
his explanation cleared up the affair. Koi>- 
withstanding his embarrassment, he was con- 
scious of a distinct sense of relief. His mus- 
ings for the moment were wholly of Ruth, 
and they were very tender. Then, he again 
remembered Elizabeth, and once more his 
mind was in turmoil. He regarded his pas*- 
sionate dream of her as dead and done ; but 
there remained the difficult, the painful task 
of making plain the fact to her. That would 
be a trial far different from this talk with 
the father. He knew, without vanity, that 
he had all unwittingly engaged her affection. 
The telling of the truth to her would be a 
heart-wrenching thing. He felt guilty as 
never before, blaming himself bitterly as the 
cause of what this innocent girl must suffer. 
The fault, he acknowledged, was altogether 
his. He alone had been the active agent 
whose unforgivable folly brought about an 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 239 

intolerable situation. His careless yielding 
to a sensuous mood had encouraged the girl 
to bestow on him the priceless treasure of 
her love. True, he had not made direct 
declarations in words. There had been no 
need. He was weU aware that every glance 
of his eyes there in the cavern had told her 
the thing she longed for* Afterward, he had 
tried to play his part with more discretion. 
His suffering in the effort — and the suffering 
he had inflicted on her — had been suflScient 
to deserve some good result, as it seemed to 
him. Yet, in the end, the effect of his strug- 
gle had been only that, at sight of her to- 
day, he took her into his arms, and laid his 
lips to her hair. At memory of those deli- 
cious moments, David's mood changed once 
again. His pulses quickened, and his heart 
warmed with desire for thia woman, so beau- 
tiful, so admirable in every way, so strong, 
so sweet, so gentle, so winsome, who loved 
him. Again, he felt the rapture of that em- 
brace ; again, the soft fragrance of her hair 
was like incense in his nostrils. He quite for- 
got Euth — ^until the voice of Lowrie rudely 
jarred him back to conscionsneds of the 
present. 



240 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

The chief spoke gruffly, but still with his 
judicial manner. He spoke, too, with de- 
cisive emphasis, as one laying down the law, 
as one whose authority was not to be denied 
by any other person ; least of all by the cal- 
low youth there before him, who listened at 
first in startled astonishment, then dum- 
founded, as the argument penetrated his 
brain, and filled his heart with a medley of 
emotions. 

**Thet-thar gal back in yer mountings is 
out o* hit now,'' Lowrie announced suc- 
cinctly. * * She don 't count no more — ^no more 
a tall.'* He paused for a few seconds to let 
his words have their full effect on the hearer, 
who stared uncomprehendingly. 

**But — " David would have protested. 

Lowrie interrupted with a strident ejacula- 
tion of impatience. 

** Listen hyar 1" he ordered; and the moun- 
taineer perforce obeyed. ** Don't ye see?" 
he demanded, with evident contempt for the 
other's obtuseness. ** Don't ye understan' 
the plain facts? When you-all sot out fr'm 
hum, ye belonged t' thet-thar gal o' your'n. 
I don't aim t' deny thet none whatsoever." 
The chief paused anew, as if to let his 



THE HOMEWABD TEAIL 241 

phrases sink in. Then^ presently^ lie re- 
sumed speaking with ponderous gravity. 

** Since, they's been things happenin^ 
You-all got kotched in the river, an* yer head 
busted agin a stun. Ye come right-smart 
cluss t* dyin* right then an' thar. Te know 
thet?'* 

David nodded a wondering assent to the 
question. 

**Wall, keep thet in yer mind,'* Lowrie 
charged. * * Furthermore, they 's another p 'int 
t' be considered. Hit was my darter what 
pulled ye out o* thet-thar river. So be, she 
hedn't seen ye an' grabbed ye, ye'd 'a' been 
a goner, sure popl So, hain't hit?" 

David nodded for the second time, while 
Lowrie 's expression softened to complacency. 
He appeared gratified by the shrewdness of 
his own reasoning, which he was now about 
to display to his less astute auditor. 

**My darter saved ye fr'm bein' drownded 
over thar in the river. Thet-thar other gal 
o' your 'n didn't save ye none ; she didn't even 
he'p none. So, ye see, thet-thar gal o' your'n 
losted ye thar in the river. Pur's she's con- 
samed, ye 'r ' drownded. TJnderstan ' ? Ye 'r ' 
dead t' thet-thar gal, an' thar kain't be no 



242 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

resurrection fer ye — ^not so fur's gittin' 
spliced goes nohow/' The chief wagged his 
massive head impressively, and ran his 
fingers through the thick thatch of waving 
gray hair, while David regarded him in mnte 
amazement. **Te belong t' somebody else 
now. Hit's fer 'er t' 'ave the say-so %ont 
yer life, I cal'late. She saved ye out o' the 
river, an' so ye'r' 'er'n. If so be she wants 
ye fer 'er h'usban', why, thet's hit Then 
yell marry 'er. Ye see how 'tis, don't yet" 
The fierce challenging stare with which he 
regarded his guest was disconcerting. 

David strove to clear his muddled wits. 
He was aghast over the extraordinary theory 
so strenuously advanced by Lowrie. The 
idea was essentially preposterous, but he 
realized with dismay that it was enunciated 
in all seriousness by his host. Already that 
very day, he had seen the man display his 
autocratic temper, and he had no reason to 
suppose that this chief of a tribe would be 
less stem in dealing with a stranger than 
with any other who ran counter to his wishes. 
He cast about in his mind for some means 
of overthrowing the elder man's argument, 
but in the very simplicity of that argument 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 243 

lay its strength. David guessed that the 
finer points of personal honor involved in 
this matter of abandoning one girl for an^ 
other would be deemed of no importance by 
Lowrie. The Oroatan had made plain the 
fact that he would not refuse this stranger as 
a suitor for his daughter's hand. On the 
contrary, he showed a disposition to welcome 
the young man as his 8on-in*law. His lack 
of scruples made it extremely doubtful if 
he could be convinced that the man he 
favored owed a duty to any girl other than 
his own daughter. David gave up the at- 
tempt to find a worth-while argument against 
that advanced by the chief. His honesty 
compelled him to make a blunt avowal of his 
sentiments in the affair. He knew that he 
could not make them appeal to his hearer, 
nor did he try. Very reluctantly, for he di- 
vined the hostility he would provoke by his 
declaration, he stated his attitude. 

**Why, chief, I couldn't go back on my 
word. I'm pledged t' Buth. Whatever ye 
say Ijout my gittin' drownded in the river, 
an* bein' saved from it by yer daughter, I 
can't he'p knowin' I'm still bound t' Buth. 
She's the gal I'm goin' t' marry." He al- 



244 THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 

most added that she was the only girl in the 
world whom he wished to marry, for just now 
his exasperation against Lowrie extended in 
some degree to the daughter. But discretion 
checked the phrase on his lips. He felt that 
it would be unwise to aggravate the man un- 
necessarily. 

It seemed as if the sense of the words did 
not penetrate Lowrie ^s understanding for a 
few seconds. At least, there was no change 
in his expression at first. When the change 
did come, it was swift and menacing. The 
brow and the bits of cheek above the high- 
growing beard showed purple, and the yeins 
stood out in blue-black ridges, swollen with 
blood. His big body grew visibly bigger, 
expanding with the rage that welled up in 
him. David could hear the grinding of the 
teeth as the jaws clamped shut, and then 
moved under the impulse of his wrath. But 
the black eyes most proclaimed the fury that 
possessed the man. They were flaming, dart- 
ing the lightnings of hate as if to slay this 
presumptuous youth, who thus dared to flaunt 
his daughter. The great hands, resting on 
the arms of his chair, clenched with such 
force that the red and roughened skin over 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 245 

the knuckles showed smooth and bloodless 
white from the tension. 

David experienced a moment of physical 
fear. He expected that in the next second 
the chief would leap upon him to crush out 
his life in blood-lust aroused by the insult to 
the beloved daughter. He maintained his 
position without outward flinching, but the 
blasting look in those eyes seemed to shrivel 
the soul within him. For a few horrible in- 
stants, he was fairly sick with fear. He had 
felt the grip of those arms once, when they 
had held him in a clutch that was kindly, 
yet of remorseless strength. Now, the might 
of them would destroy him, for he had no 
force with which to oppose their vast power. 
He had heard talk of things the chief had 
done when in a red rage. He had paid little 
heed to the tales at the time, but now they 
came surging into memory, and served to 
weaken his spirit stUl further. David sat 
without a change of feature, motionless and 
stolid to all appearance. But his heart failed 
him. He expected no less than death. 

For that matter, David was as close to 
death that day in the cabin as a man may be 
and live. For a little, Lowrie was indeed 



246 THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 

mad with passionate resentment, by reason 
of the dishonor, as he deemed it, put on Ids 
daughter by the yomig man who owed his 
life to her. He had been wholly sincere in 
his Warped view of the case. He beliered 
that this youth's fntnre was at the absolute 
disposal of Elizabeth. Since the girl had 
chosen him as her mate, her mate he mnst 
be. This resistance on his part was a 
monstrous thing, unbelievable, unendurable. 
Lowrie regarded David's refusal to acquiesce 
as nothing short of a crime^ That crime 
merited death. The young man had spumed 
Elizabeth, had declared that he would not 
marry her, that he would marry another girL 
The offense was supreme; it deserved the 
supreme punishment. 

Yet, the cause of David's great peril was 
also the cause of his escape from it — ^Eliza- 
beth. In his wrath over the outrage against 
his daughter, Lowrie was ready to do murder. 
But, before he could yield to the impulse to 
slay for her sake, there came a check on 
that impulse — ^the thought that perhaps he 
ought rather to spare, still for her sake. 
There flashed on him a memory of the time 
when he and she had talked together, and 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 247 

she had told him so tremulously, yet so 
bravely, that she loved this man who had 
come to her from up beyond. And if she 
loved him, the killing of him would hurt her. 
Lowrie, with all his savagery, was not minded 
to harm his daughter. She was the ona 
creature in the world whom he loved, whom 
he would save from all pain, to whom he 
would bring all happiness within his powen 
While he thought of these things, the first 
wildness of his anger passed. The crimson 
haze that had risen from his heart to fog his 
brain, lifted, and he was able to think clearly 
again. It occurred to him that, after all^ it 
could not prove to be a very diflficult thing 
to bend this stranger to his wilL The young- 
ster 's foolish ideas of duty could be per- 
verted easily enough. Surely, it could only 
be a question of time. And there was Eliza- 
beth herself, whom, assuredly, no man could 
resist. The purple hue died out of his 
face, leaving the usual ruddy brown. His 
mind considered the problem briefly, and 
reached a decision. The hands on the chair* 
arms unclenched. The fires still glowed 
in his eyes; but the flames were no longer 
deadly. 



248 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

David, watching furtively, saw that the 
crisis was past, and he rejoiced with all the 
lusty strength of his young manhood that the 
life was still in him. He stirred for the first 
time since he had spoken. He gave no other 
outward sign of the emotion that had shaken 
his souL 

But the first feeling of inexpressible relief 
for his escape was speedily modified, and 
David was beset with new cause for tribula- 
tion. The chief ^s voice sounded again, and 
the listener realized that the issue between 
them was by no means determined, only post- 
poned. 

**I^11 give ye time t' change yer mind,*' 
was the harshly uttered decree. **P*r*aps, 
sometime, I Hn forgive ye fer what yeVe 
said, so bein' as how ye'r' young an* fool- 
ish. 1*11 give ye a chance t* see the light. 
I*m sparin* ye 'cause I love my darter, an* 
hit might make *er sorry if I was t* kill ye 
hyar an* now. I cal'late a week orter be 
enough time fer ye t* git rid o* yer fool no- 
tions *bout thet-thar other gal. So, 1*11 give 
ye a week t* decide.** 

**I can*t change,** David declared. He 
spoke almost humbly, but with a certain in- 



THE HOMEWARD TEAHj 249 

flection of dogged resolution. **IVe got t' 
do what I think is right. ' ' 

Lowrie did not flare in a new rage as David 
had dreaded. The chief had himself well in 
hand now, and he answered in almost his 
usnal manner. 

**Te'r* t* 'ave a week. When thet*s np, 
if ye hain't seen the light, hit'U be the wnss 
fer ye.'' He chuckled roughly. **But I 'low 
thet yell git yer eyes open afore the time's 
up. An' now, ye kin hev yer ch'ice. I'll 
hev ye trun inter the guard-house, an' kept 
thar safe an' sound while ye'r' doing yer 
thinkin', er ye Hn stay right on hyar in the 
cabin just as ye've been a-doin', if ye'U give 
me yer word not t' run away. I'll take yer 
word fer hit, boy, 'cause I think ye'r' honest, 
even if ye 'ave got some damn '-fool notions. 
What say?" 

David had no hesitation in passing his word 
that he would not attempt to escape within 
the time limit of seven days. On the con- 
trary, he welcomed this reprieve as offering 
a hope of ultimate escape from his predica- 
ment. He was sure that he could depend on 
one strong agency in his favor — ^Elizabeth. 
His knowledge of the girl was such that he 



250 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

had a fine respect for her high ideals of con- 
duct. He was convinced that her estimate 
of his duty wonld agree with his own, no 
matter what the cost to her personal desires. 
He felt that he could depend on the exertion 
of her influence in his behalf as against the 
despotic will of her father. He was only 
anxious now to hasten that revelation to her 
which hitherto he had so weakly postponecl* 
He was glad when Lowrie, without another 
word, abruptly got up from his chair, and 
left the cabin. David resolved to seek Eliza- 
beth at once, to tell her all, to throw himself 
on her mercy. 




CHAPTER XXn 

WILLIAM SWAIM^S conscience was ill 
at ease after the departure of David. 
Neither his wife nor his daughter accused 
him openly for his part in the affair, but 
the expression of their faces was a constant 
reproach, as was their manifest avoidance of 
any reference to the absent young man. He 
was especially distressed by the manner of 
Euth toward him. There was a certain aloof- 
ness in her air that was new in her treat- 
ment of him. It was as if she meant de- 
liberately to shut him out of her confidence. 
And Swaim loved his daughter deeply. She 
was the most precious thing in his life. Now, 
he knew that he had wounded her sorely. 
He feared lest his violence and injustice to- 
ward David had alienated the girPs affection. 
The thought was very bitter. It was made 
the more painful from the fact that his con- 
science put all the blame on himself. To 
add to his trouble, he experienced a sense 

251 



252 THE HOMEWARD TEAIL 

of personal loss from the departure of David. 
In his own peculiar fashion, he had liked the 
lad. He had come to regard him as his future 
son-in-law, his successor in the cultivation of 
the farm in which he took great pride. His 
own hasty yielding to an angry impulse 
threatened to destroy the whole fabric of his 
plans for the future. Finally, Swaim was 
distressed over the probable consequences of 
his act in connection with Simmons, David ^s 
father. The man was his one close friend. 
Swaim grieved to think that this friend might 
be changed into an enemy when he returned 
to learn how his son fared at his neighbor's 
hands. 

It is not the custom of the dwellers in this 
region to make apology even for known 
faults, or to express regret, no matter how 
sincere their penitence over some wrong deed. 
Swaim, for the life of him, could not have 
voiced his remorse over the treatment of 
David. He longed to restore himself to the 
good graces of wife and child, more espe- 
cially to reestablish himself in the favor of 
his daughter. But he was unable to speak 
of the thing that lay so heavy on his heart. 
He could not put his feeling in words. He 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 253 

could only go about in a mute misery of ap- 
pearance that was half-pitiful, half-absurd. 
By every means in his power, except open 
confession in speech, he made plain the fact 
that he had done wrong and that he was ex- 
ceedingly sorry for it. He went out of his 
way to make innumerable suggestions for 
the comfort and pleasure of his women folk. 
He even carried this so far as to open his 
purse-strings of his own accord, for the first 
time in the history of the family. He dis^ 
played indeed what was to him — and to them, 
for that matter — ^a truly lavish generosity. 
The women, for their part, imderstood 
very well the workings of Swaim's mind i^nd 
heart. Both were aware of his project as 
to a marriage between Ruth and David, 
though the subject had never been discussed 
except in strictest confidence by himself and 
the elder Simmons. The wife and daughter 
knew also how Swaim was now suffering from 
the pangs of conscience. Whatever sym- 
pathy they may have had for the transgres- 
sor was promptly stifled, or at least they did 
not let it show to him in any way. It seemed 
to them that this discipline was good for the 
man who had hitherto been so niggardly. 



254 THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 

While they mourned the disappearance of 
David, they secretly rejoiced in its effect on 
the head of the household, and had no wish 
to shorten his time of tribulation. So, Swaim 
went about his daily tasks full of contrition, 
constantly made greater by the demeanor of 
his family toward him. He felt very sorrow- 
ful and very lonely. In this mood of abject- 
ness, when seeking by all means to make 
amends, he even tried to render himself more 
agreeable in his daughter's sight by a com- 
plete change in his treatment of the fawn. 
Where before he had declaimed against the 
wastefulness of feeding the useless ** critter, '^ 
he now went to extravagant lengths in the 
other direction. He carried tit-bits in his 
pocket, which he offered whenever Mollis 
came near. The effect was immediate. 
Where formerly the fawn had been shy of 
him, had usually fled at his approach unless 
supported by Ruth's presence, it now wel- 
comed his advances greedily, and soon ran 
to meet him whenever he appeared. It was 
not long before the daughter, to her aston- 
ishment, and much to her indignation, dis- 
covered that MoUie would only come to her 
after repeated calls — sometimes not then. 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHj 255 

The fawn preferred mincing daintily in the 
wake of the grim old man, in whose pockets 
were wonderful stores of com and sugar and 
even— oh, irony of fatel — ^those limber-twig 
apples, the cause of David's downfall. 

It seemed good to Ruth and her mother, 
now while their wishes prevailed, that the 
girl should go on a visit long planned, to her 
maternal grandparents at Bethania. This 
would include also a visit to a school friend 
at Salem, where she might shop to advantage 
while the father's generosity was still un- 
checked. 

Ruth was especially glad to go at this time, 
since she had a deep and reverent affection 
for her grandparents, and in the atmosphere 
of the home there was a serenity that always 
laid a spell on her spirit. Ambrose King and 
his wife were Quakers, and the peace in their 
souls radiated out in soothing effect on whom- 
soever came within the sphere of its influence. 
Just now, Ruth craved that tranquilizing 
solace for herself. David's departure, fol- 
lowing immediately on their mutual confes- 
sion of love, left her a prey to a loneliness 
unlike any she had ever known before, which 
fairly bewildered her. She was by no means 



256 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

all nnhappy, but she was troubled and idis- 
turbed by her present lack of that new thing 
which had come into her life and for a few 
hours so filled it with joy. It was with $he 
hope of spiritual comforting that, on a day 
about a fortnight after David ^s going, she 
mounted her horse at early morning, and 
rode east over the score of miles that lay be- 
tween the farm and the tiny Moravian village 
of Bethania. And by a curious twist of fate, 
she rode to find not the peace she longed for, 
but pain and grief beyond any she had ever 
known, beyond any she would ever know 
again. 

The aged pair greeted her warmly, and at 
the very outset the calm of the home settled 
upon Euth's spirit, and she was at peace, as 
she had hoped to be. This endured for a 
few hours. Then came the change — blasting 
as a lightning bolt. 

Ambrose King and his wife carried the 
principles of their religion into every action 
of their lives. Because they believed in peace 
absolutely, they could not believe in war at 
alL They admitted no justification for it, 
they had no sympathy for it in any of its 
aspects. In the vital struggle between North 



THE HOMEWABD TEAIL 257 

and South, they held to an impartiality that 
was complete because it was based on the 
denial of any righteousness at all in warfare. 
It was a natural outcome of their principles 
that the pair should give succor to the war's 
victims, irrespective of local prejudice. It 
became known to Union sympathizers that 
they could be depended upon to give food 
and shelter to any escaping from a Confed- 
erate prison. So, it chanced that on the night 
following Buth's arrival at her grandparents' 
home, there came stealthily, as soon as dark- 
ness had fallen, one of those fugitives thus 
making his laborious way northward toward 
safety by the underground railway. 

Euth was sitting in the living-room of the 
little house with her grandparents, gossip- 
ing over local matters, when a soft knock 
sounded at the door. The old Quaker opened 
it at once, and a man slipped furtively into 
the room. Euth regarded him with much 
curiosity, for she immediately suspected 
what manner of visitor this might be. She 
saw that he was rather short, but broad-shoul- 
dered, evidently one of considerable strength, 
though now gaunt and weakened. His form 
seemed even more attenuated than it really 



258 THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 

was because the clothes he wore were mucli 
too large for him. The emaciated face was 
almost wholly concealed by a short, bristling 
red beard, above which showed watery, blinks 
ing eyes, with inflamed lids. The fellow whis- 
pered a few words to King, and at a nod 
from her husband, the wife busied herself 
with setting out a substantial meal on the 
table. Forthwith, the newcomer seated him- 
self and ate wolfishly. But, when the meal 
was ended, and he had accepted a pipeful of 
tobacco from the old Quaker, Morris — ^for 
such, he informed them, was his name — ^re- 
laxed, and without any pressing proceeded to 
relate his experiences. Ruth listened with 
the eager interest of a girl whose Hfe con- 
tained few excitements. She was thrilled by 
the fellow's story of his leap into the river 
when pursued by the bloodhounds, and his 
subsequent adventures. She had no inkling 
as to the identity of the ** young feller '' in 
the boat, until Morris spoke David's name. 
At the sound of it Ruth's heart leaped, and 
she sat quivering, greedy for news of the 
man she loved. She did not speak. There 
was no need to question. Morris was by na- 
ture garrulous. He loved to talk of himself 




THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 259 

always, and in this instance, talk necessitated 
constant mention of his companion, David. 
Luckily for Buth's powers of self-control, he 
spoke throughout in friendly fashion of David. 
It was only when he passed on to the second 
period, the one spent in the hunting shack 
on the cliff overlooking the river, that the 
soldier allowed rancor to show. It was pro- 
voked by the enmity which he still felt to- 
ward the princess for the disdain with which 
she had uniformly treated him. His feeling 
toward her extended also in some degree to 
David, when he thought of the two as they 
were together. So, he sneered in his mention 
of them, while Ruth listened, at first alto- 
gether incredulous, then affrighted, half -con- 
vinced. She would have cried out now to 
accuse this vile Yankee of lying about her 
David, but the rush of emotion held her dumb, 
powerless to question or deny. 

**That Injun girl was a fine-looker, if there 
wa^n^t anything else good about her,'^ Mor- 
ris declared. * * This David chap got stuck on 
her right smack off, an' she got stuck on him 
first off she set eyes on him. They had a 
Jim-dandy time there in that cussed cave to- 
gether. I kept out most of the time. That 



260 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

suited me, an' it suited them, too— you betT' 
He tittered suggestively. **Tliey made me 
sick with their lallygaggin'. Her pa peeked 
in an ' saw 'em there spoonin '. I thought he 'd 
have shot the cuss, but I guess he thought 
it would be better all round to have a white 
man for a son-in-law. Anyhow, he didn't 
make a row, an' the next day the girl took 
David home with her, bold as brass, an' the 
old Injun chief took him right into his own 
cabin. He started me off the same day, an' 
I don't know nothin' about what's happened 
since. But I miss my guess if David ain't 
married to that squaw by this time. Least- 
ways, if he ain't, he ought to be." Morris 
snickered over his vicious innuendo. '^One 
thing certain, if that old sockdolager of a 
chief wants that young feller for a son-in- 
law, David ain't got a chance in the world 
of gettin' away without marryin' the girl." 
There came a slight swishing, rustling 
noise, a soft thudding sound. Startled, the 
soldier and the two old persons looked 
around. They saw Ruth lying huddled on 
the floor, where she had slipped so quietly 
from her chair in a dead faint 




THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 261 

Ruth, when she returned to consdonsness 
a half-honr later, found herself undressed 
and in bed, with her grandmother hovering 
about her in tender solicitude. She made 
light of her attack, and was soon left to sleep. 
But there was no sleep for her that night. 
Throughout the hours of darkness, she was 
tortured by the visions of imagination con- 
jured by the evU words of the Northerner. 
For the first time, she knew the anguish of 
jealousy. She tried to hold fast to her faith 
in David, but loyalty was sorely taxed, and 
the effort left her weak with despair. She 
pictured this savage princess as a vampire, 
beautiful perhaps, with wanton lures, cruel, 
conscienceless, hungry to devour the one she 
held so dear, the one who was more than life 
to her. Tales she had heard of the Croatans 
came thronging into her memory now — stales 
of rapine and plunder, and worse. She was 
terrified by the thought that David was ex- 
posed not only to the allurements of an un- 
scrupulous woman who wanted him, but also to 
actual perils from his new environment. She 
thought of him as weak and helpless from his 
hurt in the river, unable to free himself, even 
should he so desire, from the wiles of the 



262 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

woman and the physical restraints imposed 
by the Indian chief. She felt her love threat- 
ened with complete disaster. The prospect 
almost maddened hen 

Out of the confusion of Ruth's thoughts^ 
a desperate plan was at last evolved. She 
craved action in this crisis. She could not 
endure the idea of remaining passive while 
her lover was being taken from her, either 
willingly or by force. She determined to 
learn the truth for herself. It would be better 
to know the facts, even at their worst, with- 
out a moment of unnecessary delay. The 
suspense was not to be borne. She con- 
fronted the possibility of finding David nn- 
faithful to his love for her. In that case, it 
would be the end. Her heart would break. 
But there was another possibility. It might 
be that David was in duress. It might be, 
too, that somehow, with the resources of love 
equal to any task, she might find a way to 
aid him, to release him, to bring him back to 
home and her and love. 

Ruth had no difficulty in carrying out her 
rash project without attracting any suspicion 
from those about her. She merely rode 
forth next day on the road to the south, 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 263 

ostensibly to visit a school friend and to do 
her shopping in Salem, twelve miles away. 
As a matter-of-fact, however, she halted in 
Salem just long enough to purchase ample 
supplies for a few days' trip through the 
wilder country to the southward. There- 
after, she set forward resolutely over the 
rough trail that led toward the Croatan en- 
campment. It was a distance of full seventy- 
five miles, as she had learned by inquiries, 
but she faced it without a tremor of fear. 
Her fear was all for the danger that waited 
at the end of the trail, and this was a fear 
not of physical ills, but of peril to her heart's 
happiness, of peril to the man with whom 
that heart's happiness was concerned. From 
the few dwellers along the trail, she secured 
such directions as she needed, evading as best 
she could the frank curiosity of those whom 
she encountered. She camped by night 
bravely enough within the shelter of some 
forest thicket, where she kindled a fire, and 
cooked her meal over the blaze, and after- 
ward rolled in her blanket, to lie restlessly, 
wide-eyed through the long hours, or to 
dream of dreadful things. 
It was on the third day that she came into 



264 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

the cross-trail — ^the river-trail, which ran 
west from the main road to the Croatan en- 
campment. She had gained information con* 
ceming the distances here. When she had 
come, as she judged, within a mile of the 
settlement, she tethered her horse in the con- 
cealment of a clump of old-field pines, and 
went forward very cautiously on foot. When, 
finally, she came in sight of the cabins, she 
left the trail, and made a detour through the 
woods to avoid observation. She advanced 
cautiously, without being detected, close to 
the clearing, where she halted within a cluster 
of high-growing gallberry bushes. Here she 
peered out to reconnoiter. Just in front of 
her hiding place, not a rod away, a walled-in 
spring bubbled from the ground, and the 
stream from it ran purling daintily past her 
where she stood tense and watchful. 

Buth saw two figures coming slowly across 
the open space toward the spring. It seemed 
to her that in this instant the heart within 
her died. For one of the two was David, 
and the other was a woman — ^a woman 
slender and tall, who walked with graceful 
ease, whose head was poised haughtily, whose 
face was beautiful. 



CHAPTER XXni 

DAVID, returning from a short walk in 
the woods, saw Elizabeth enter the 
cabin, and inunediately reappear, carrying 
the water paiL He fcaew that she was on her 
way to the spring, which was a hundred 
yards down the slope, on the edge of the 
clearing. He realized that the opportunity 
he desired was at hand. None of the cabins 
was near the spring, so that there, though 
plainly visible, they would be out of earshot, 
and at this hour of late afternoon, they were 
likely to be free from interruption. So, he 
hastened to join the girl, who smiled wanly 
in greeting as he approached, but spoke no 
word. David, too, was silent. He walked 
by her side in a mood of deep dejection, 
pondering heavily on the things that he must 
say to her, and wondering what effect his con- 
fession would have on her. By tacit consent 
of both, they waited before speaking until 
they should come to the spring. 
Elizabeth, too, was a prey to depression. 

265 



266 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

A single glance into the young man's face 
had sufficed to show how ill at ease he was, 
how utterly wretched. She knew intuitively 
that his trouble concerned her, that it had 
to do with the mysterious barrier which 
reared itself between them. Moreover, she 
had read between the lines in the note he 
had written, and imderstood from it that he 
was compelled to leave her. She did not 
quite know whether his departure was volun- 
tary or not. She dared hope that his flight 
had been caused by something against his 
own will, which he was powerless to resist. 
Then, at the moment of his return so unex- 
pectedly, she had been too weak to withstand 
the longing of her heart, had gone to his 
arms. She had rested within that shelter in 
a joy that was perfect, though so pitifully 
brief. For a few glorious seconds her heart 
had beaten in unison with his, with no thought 
of things past or to come, but only the rap- 
ture of the present. 

She had felt the light touch of his lips as 
he kissed her hair, and the exquisite thrill 
of it stirred again in her memory now as she 
stole a glance into his face. But she remem- 
bered, too, her horrible awakening from the 






THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 267 

dream of bliss, when the man she loved had 
stood apart from her, and had let her go 
from him without a word. She had realized 
then that her happiness was seriously threat- 
ened, if not already destroyed. Yet, she con- 
tinued to hope, because, as it seemed to her, 
if she could not still hope, she must die. Now, 
as she walked at his side, watching with 
secret glances the face she so loved, the 
somber expression of his features chilled her 
with a fear of irreparable disaster. His 
silence, the gravity of his air, the downcast 
eyes and sternly compressed lips filled her 
with dire forebodings. The oppression on 
her spirits grew heavier. It required all the 
strength of her will, which was not small, to 
maintain the semblance of self-control. Her 
soul was aching with desire for this man's 
love. For a few splendid days, she had be- 
lieved that he belonged to her, that his need 
of her was as hers of him. But afterward 
the shadow had fallen between them. It lay 
there stilL Now as they walked onward to- 
gether the gloom of it lay dark upon them, 
and blotted out all the light of the world. 
And still she dared to hope that he loved her. 
It seemed to her that she could endure aU 



268 THE HOMEWARD TBAHi 

things — ^parting, even life without him, or 
death, which would be easier — ^if only he 
loved her. She feared somehow, with a subtle 
woman's instinct, that his heart was not after 
all in her keeping. And still she dared to 
hope that he loved her — else her heart must 
break. 

Euth, from her place of concealment among 
the gallberry bushes, saw the two come down 
to the spring, but her ears caught no word 
spoken by either as they approached. She 
noted with a wonder that was half pleasure 
their sorrowful faces. She wondered still 
more when she saw this other girl seat her- 
self on a fallen tree trunk by the spring still 
in silence, while David, equally mute, stood 
before her in an attitude of constraint. It 
was a long minute before the young man's 
voice sounded. For a part of the interval, 
Ruth's eager glances studied his face fondly. 
She rejoiced to see the hue of health in his 
cheeks ; she grieved over his careworn expres- 
sion. She attributed it, and rightly, to the 
woman beside him, and hatred quickened in 
her for the one, corresponding to her love 
for the other. Then her gaze went intently to 
that woman, and rested there. 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 269 

• 

The sight of the other's face worked a 
curious spell on Euth. The contempt and 
loathing that had filled her were subdued 
little by little as she surveyed the pure and 
lovely face of Elizabeth. Despite herself, the 
girl recognized the essential nobility of her 
rival. She struggled in vain against her 
changing impressions. She was forced to 
acknowledge against her will that here was 
no wanton creature such as had been sug- 
gested by the soldier's slurring tale. She 
could not deny the dignity and wholesome- 
ness of this princess before whom David 
stood in such humility. Clashing emotions 
made tumult in Euth's bosom. She felt ut- 
terly at a loss to understand this situation 
on which she had intruded. Bewilderment 
overcame her. She was sure only that she 
had utterly misjudged this girl whom a 
venomous tongue had slandered. She must 
revise her judgment through and through. 
But even as she admitted how great had been 
her error in estimating the princess, Euthi 
was terrified before the reality. She had 
been prepared to war against a wanton, to 
go to any length in order to rescue David 
from his bondage. But now she found her- 



270 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

self confronted with a task altogether differ- 
ent and infinitely more diflScult. She must 
face and triumph over a rival who was both 
beautiful and worthy. Euth had little vanity 
and less knowledge of her own loveliness. 
In this moment of meeting, she had no doubt 
that the other was her superior in every 
feminine charm. She could not wonder that 
David should prefer this gracious stranger 
to herself. But the admission of her own in- 
feriority left Euth stricken. Black despair 
fell on her. As she crouched in her ambush 
and stared out on the two the look in her 
eyes was that of a creature wounded to the 
death. And then, at last, there came to her 
ears the voice of David, speaking very 
softly, brokenly. 

*'IVe been with yer pappy. I told him 
what the reason was why I ran away last 
night. '^ He raised his eyes for the first time 
in a fleeting glance toward Elizabeth, but the 
expression on her face was inscrutable, and 
gave him no assistance. He looked down at 
the ground again, and resumed his attempt 
at explanation. **Te see, ^Liz^beth, yeVe 
been so kind t' me that I know it ain't right 
fer me t* go away without tellin' ye why. 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 271 

I^ve jest told yer pappy, an* he*' — David 
broke off in confusion. To qnote the father 
was to accuse the daughter of loving him un- 
asked. An instinctive chivalry held his 
tongue. 

But now at last the girl herself helped him 
a little by speaking for the first time. Her 
voice, though faint, was firm and even, and 
the eyes with which she contemplated Hm 
were brave, despite the tortured shadows in 
them. 

**You told pappy T You must tell me, 
David. Why must you go t ' * 

**I can't stay here,'' was the answer, 
spoken in a tone that was resolute for the 
first time during the interview, ** because I 
belong some'eres else. There's somebody 
a-waitin' fer me back up there, an' I must 
go back home t' her." The final pronoun 
was uttered after a slight pause and with an 
inflection that was significant. 

As she heard the word, Elizabeth under- 
stood everything in a lightning flash of il- 
lumination, and the pang of that knowledge 
pierced her to the soul. Somehow, notwith- 
standing her feminine intuition, she had 
never suspected the presence of another 



272 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

woman in the life of the man that she loved. 
Even when she realized the existence of a 
barrier between them, she did not guess its 
nature. So, the truth came to her now with 
a shock that racked her to the foundation of 
her being. The simple statement from David 
meant the end of everything for her. All the ] 

light went out of her life, and left only a 
darkness complete and impenetrable. Under 
the golden tint of her complexion, a deathly 
pallor showed. The lids sank heavily over 
the eyes. It was as if her soul were exhaled 
in the sigh that passed so softly from her 
lips. 

David heard the sound of that gentle 
breath, and looked toward her again. He 
saw her with shut eyes, swaying a little where 
she sat. He took a step forward to clasp 
her, fearful lest she fall. But he checked 
himself, as he saw the form grow tense again 
by the girl 's own effort of will. Yet, though 
he held back from her, he was longing as 
never before to take her into his arms, to 
comfort her, to assuage the mortal hurt he 
himself had given her, with words and kisses. 
He did not yield to his desire because he knew 
that to do so would mean in the end an in- 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 273 

crease of the agony she must suffer. More- 
over, he knew that he must restrain his im- 
pulse for his own sake as well as for hers. 
There was no thought in his mind now that 
this girl belonged to a people strange to him, 
whose ways were not his ways. There was 
no feeling of revolt in his heart now because 
of her father's savagery. Once again, the 
glamour was on him. Even in her misery, 
the magnetism of her presence stole upon 
him, and held him in thrall. He tore away 
his eyes from her face lest the pathetic ap- 
peal of it should destroy his resolve. So, 
he did not see her eyes unclose, did not know 
the searching sadness in the girPs long 
scrutiny of him. Her voice startled him with 
a question, spoken very feebly, yet with a 
demand not to be denied. And it was a ques- 
tion that caught him in the moment when he 
was least prepared. It came, though hardly 
louder than a whisper, like a fierce cry from 
his own conscience. 

**Do you — ^love her?'* 

It was his own cowardice that drove 
David to answer promptly, decisively — ^fear 
of his own weakness, which might still 
further inqrease her misery. He spoke with 



274 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

a coldness that covered the effort of self- 
restraint. 

**Yes/' And then he added, as if to con- 
firm a faltering purpose for his own sake: 
**Yes, I love her — ^I love Euth — ^my Ruth.'* 

It was as if the word held a spell to evoke 
a vision of serenest joy. He saw again the 
orchard back there on the farm, saw the fawn 
issue from the thicket and stand regarding 
him with placid eyes, saw the face of Ruth 
as she parted the branches, and looked out 
from the frame of foliage at him. Then his 
manhood had not known the rich gifts her 
lips had to offer. Afterward he had learned. 
The memory of their kisses came to him now. 
The memory was a delight, and in it he for- 
got all other longing in a poignant desire to 
be with Ruth again. 

Something in David *s expression must 
have told the truth to Elizabeth. A spasm 
of physical pain distorted her features for 
an instant, which had its source in her heart. 
Then she asserted her strength, and her ex- 
pression became one of sorrowful resigna- 
tion, yet with something in it that hinted of 
a soul undaunted, even though the heart were 
broken. She stood up, as if to show that 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 275 

there was no need of further discussion. And 
her words were of like effect. 

' ' You must go to her. ' ' 

The brief utterance, spoken so quietly and 
so unfalteringly, contained all of a woman's 
mightiest sacrifice. It was her renunciation 
of her own happiness, her gift at a cost be- 
yond words to that other, unknown woman, 
who had first claim on the man she loved. 
Perhaps Elizabeth believed her own powers 
of attraction strong enough to draw this man 
to her and to hold him against the world. 
She knew nothing of the effect on him of her 
father's violence, which had included in- 
directly a certain distaste for her, too, as 
one of the same blood, as one of a people 
strange to him, whose ways were not his 
ways. But, though the princess might have 
faith in her ability to rule David's heart at 
her will, and though every atom of her being 
was vibrant to win his love, she rose above 
all selfish desire from pure purpose toward 
the right, and bade him go whither he was in 
duty bound. 

She had no need to pour out all her heart 
in a torrent of words, to tell how deeply she 
loved him, how tremendous was the suffering 



276 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

inflicted by her sacrifice. It was all written 
on her face, in the tremulous, drooping curves 
of her scarlet lips, in the clouded deeps of 
the eyes. David, shaken by clashing emo- 
tions, did not see, for he could not bear to 
look at her in this supreme moment. But 
there was another who did see. 

Euth, from her hiding place, not only heard 
every word spoken by the two, but her aston- 
ished gaze noted every revelation of Eliza- 
beth's love and self-abnegation. The sight 
filled her with penitence for the injustice she 
had done this other girl in her thoughts. She 
was filled with pity and sympathy for the tor- 
ment of which she was so innocently the 
cause. But chiefly it was shame that moved 
her — shame that she should so have mis- 
judged a fellow-woman, who suffered so 
sorely, yet endured her suffering with such 
nobility of character. All her personal 
dread, grown greater at first sight of her 
rival's loveliness, had vanished on hearing 
David's declaration that he still loved her. 
Her later emotion had little to do with self, 
little to do with David. It was all concerned 
with this other, whose misery Euth could 
understand out of her own agony in the last 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 277 

few days. Of a sudden, she felt that she must 
go to the girl, must try to help her in the 
hour of need by tenderest sympathy. 

Euth acted on the impulse at once. She 
issued from the concealment of the bushes, 
and went swiftly toward the two by the 
spring. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

CEIMSON burned in Elizabeth's cheeks at 
the first appearance of the figure from 
out the screen of flaunting-hued foliage, and 
her dark eyes flashed angrily. She thought 
it was one of the Croatan girls, who had been 
eavesdropping. But, in the same moment, 
she perceived her mistake; for this was no 
member of the tribe, but an utter stranger, 
who came toward her so swiftly, with such a 
resolute air. She was startled out of her 
usual poise by the apparition of a white girl 
there in the wilderness, who, as she noted 
in quick, comprehensive survey, was well- 
dressed and ladylike, beautiful of face and 
of form. In her surprise, the princess uttered 
a stifled ejaculation, which caused David to 
look toward her. He observed the expres- 
sion of amazement on her face, and turned 
his head to follow the direction of her eyes. 
He saw Euth, hardly two yards distant from 
him, coming forward with hurried steps, her 

278 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 279 

cheeks glowing, her violet eyes suffused with 
tenderness as they met his. A mighty emo- 
tion shook him, in which were blended aston- 
ishment and delight. His face whitened for 
a moment, and he trembled. He strode to- 
ward her. Her name burst from his lips in 
a shout of joy. 

**Euthl'' 

The speaking of the name revealed much, 
if not all, to Elizabeth. She understood that 
somehow it had come to pass that the girl 
to whom David was pledged was here before 
her. How or why Euth had come was a 
mystery beyond her solving. But it seemed 
to the princess just then that the reason mat- 
tered not at all. The fact of her successful 
rivaPs being there was the only thing of im- 
portance. In her present mood of despair 
and renunciation, it seemed to Elizabeth 
that the coming of this other girl was indeed 
a fitting climax to her talk with David. She 
recognized with a pang of final hopelessness, 
from David's voice and manner as he went 
forward, that he did in truth love this girl 
to whom he was bound, that she herself had 
neither part nor lot in his heart's desire. 
She had known it before, but she felt its 



280 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

verity anew with an intolerable ache when it 
was presented thus visibly before her eyes. 
She saw Buth swept into David's arms, saw 
their lips meet and linger. She turned her 
gaze away, unable to bear the spectacle of 
that fond meeting. She stood with brooding 
eyes turned unseeing toward the western 
horizon, where great banks of storm clouds 
shut out the last rays of the setting sun. A 
little breeze touched her with the chill autunm 
air of nightfall. It seemed to pierce through 
her heart with an icy coldness. She stood 
bereft, solitary, in desolation. And in her 
ears reverberated discordantly the hushed 
murmurs of the lovers' voices. 

It was an eternity to Elizabeth while she 
stood there apart, isolated in her anguish. 
Yet, it was for no more than a few seconds 
that Buth forgot all else in the bliss of re- 
union with David. Then she recalled the 
purpose that had driven her out of hiding. 
She felt again the impulse of atonement to- 
ward this woman whom she had so bitterly 
feared and condemned in her thoughts — and 
so unjustly. Her own instinct taught her 
how dreadful must be the suffering inflicted 
on Elizabeth by witnessing this meeting be- 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 281 

tween her and David. Euth knew the secret 
of the princess' heart, though she knew, too, 
that she must never betray her knowledge. 
But by as much as her own happiness was 
great, by so much her heart went out in pity 
toward the one whom that happiness left for- 
lorn. So, she withdrew herself from David's 
embrace, though he sought to restrain her. 
She went straight to the princess, and threw 
her arms about the wondering girl, and 
kissed her warmly. 

*'I know,'' she explained hastily, before 
the other could summon a word of question, 
**you are the princess. I have heard. You 
saved David from the river. I owe him to 
you. I owe — everything to you." The last 
words came impetuously. 

Perhaps Elizabeth divined in some degree 
the significance contained in them. Perhaps 
she gained from them a clue to Euth's ap- 
preciation of the fact of her own renuncia- 
tion. Anyhow, the warm gratitude of Euth 
brought to Elizabeth the first touch of com- 
fort in her misery, and her words told her 
appreciation frankly. An instantaneous lik- 
ing developed between the two, in spite of the 
reasons that existed for mutual distrust and 



282 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

jealousy. The nobility of the princess* char- 
acter raised her superior to blaming this 
other girl for the grievous wound inflicted 
on her by fate. And Ruth appreciated that 
nobility, which she had learned through her 
eyes and ears while in hiding, and trusted 
to it, knowing that her happiness was safe 
in the generosity of this other. 

They were interrupted by David, who, un- 
mindful of Elizabeth for the time, plied Buth 
with questions concermng her presence. It 
was with judicious reserve that Ruth ex- 
plained the reasons of her coming. She told 
of the visit of Morris to her grandfather's 
home, and of hearing from him the story as 
to David's river adventure and Elizabeth's 
part in it. She carefully avoided any refer- 
ence to the vicious insinuations of the soldier 
concerning her lover and the princess, or to 
her own jealousy and alarm lest that lover 
be stolen away from her. David was satis- 
fied with the narrative, and did not guess 
that aught was concealed. He exulted in this 
proof of his sweetheart's devotion. It grati- 
fied his pride that she should have thus taken 
the hazards of a journey alone through the 
wilderness. If Elizabeth suspected aught 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 283 

that lay beneath the surface of Ruth's ac- 
count, she showed no sign, either then or 
afterward. 

After a little, Elizabeth fell silent, ab- 
sorbed in troubled thought, while the other 
two continued talking. She spoke presently 
in a tone that arrested instant attention and 
apprehension. 

**I don't like to say it,'' she began ab- 
ruptly; *4t seems so awfully inhospitable. 
But there are reasons," she went on hur- 
riedly, rather shamefacedly. She did not 
particularize beyond a vague statement. 
**It's pappy, you know." 

David uttered an exclamation under his 
breath. For the first time since the appear- 
ance of Ruth on the scene, he remembered 
the plans to which the chief of the Croatans 
was devoted, and he guessed immediately 
the cause of the daughter's evident concern 
over the situation that had developed. But 
he was at a loss as to what course should 
be pursued, and waited for Elizabeth to con- 
tinue. 

** Pappy 's strange in some ways," the girl 
resumed, speaking with evident constraint, 
as if her lack of candor made her explana- 



284 THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 

tion difficult and distasteful. "I think — '* 
she turned to David appealingly, as if hop- 
ing that he might understand without more 
explicit words from her — ^**I think it would 
be better for you two to go — ^to start away — 
at once/' 

She noted the look of pained surprise on 
Ruth's face, and stretched out her hands ap- 
pealingly. 

**You can't understand, of course,** she 
said sorrowfully. **You must take my word 
for it. I hate more than I can tell you to 
send you away so. But it is best — safest. 
It's on pappy 's account. He has dreadful 
rages sometimes. His red rages, the tribe 
calls them." The beautiful face flushed with 
embarrassment. **He hates strangers — 
sometimes I So, I think you ought to go away 
together — at once. It will be safer so." 

Ruth's face still wore an expression of 
hurt surprise, but she ventured no comment ; 
only glanced toward David inquiringly. 
David, however, nodded assent. He appre- 
ciated to the full the solicitude of the princess 
in their behalf. He meant that her advice 
should be followed in so far as it concerned 
Ruth. In regard to himself, the matter was 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 285 

altogether different. Such a simple solution 
of the difficulty could not be applied in his 
own case. Of this Elizabeth knew nothing, 
for she had not yet learned of what had oc- 
curred between him and her father. He 
would have preferred to keep silence as to 
this interview, but that was now rendered 
impossible by the necessity of immediate ac- 
tion for Euth's sake. 

This was clearly indicated in Elizabeth's 
next utterance. 

** Pappy mustn't even see Euth. I can't 
tell you just why. But I know — ^I know I ' ' 

David spoke rapidly, hia voice authorita- 
tive. 

**Yes, Euth must go at once. The princess 
is right,'' he said to the astonished girl. **It 
would be safer fer ye t' go. Yes, Euth, ye 
must start out at once." 

"You mean, we must go," the girl cor- 
rected. 

**Yes, both of you, of course," Elizabeth 
declared. 

But David shook his bead. His face was 
set in lines of grim determination. 

**No, Euthie, I can't- go with ye. I hate 
t* think o' ye ridin' all by yer lonesome 



rf 



286 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

through the woods, but it can't be he'ped. 
IVe got t' stay on here fer a week yif 

Ruth cried out in indignant reproach. The 
crisp **Whyf of the princess cut through 
the queries of the other girl, and David 
turned toward her to answer. He spoke so 
harshly that she winced; for the memory of 
her father's treatment of him filled him with 
resentment. 

**I give yer pappy my word t' stay on here 
fer seven days. I had t' promise him,*' he 
added, with a vindictive scowl at the memory. 

Elizabeth had no need of further explana- 
tion. She surmised readily enough the essen- 
tials of that interview which had resulted in 
David's forced giving of his parole. A hot 
flush of shame mantled her cheeks as Bhe 
realized the indignity that her father, who 
loved her, had all unwittingly put upon her. 
She realized, too, to some extent at least, the 
harm her father's violence must work in 
David's estimate of her, the daughter. It 
had seemed to her that she was experiencing 
the acme of torment ; yet at this thought she 
felt a new pang. The harshness in David's 
voice as he spoke to her was like a lash on 
her naked souL 




THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 287 

Euth felt her earlier indignation die. She 
was influenced by the gravity of the other 
two, distressed and terrified by the menace 
of unknown perils. She was aghast that 
David must remain exposed to those dangers 
of which she had dreamed, from which she 
had come to rescue him. But she was still 
moved by the great relief from dread of the 
worst danger — ^that of any evil from the 
woman she had so misjudged. Nevertheless, 
she was distraught at the idea of leaving 
David, while she sought safety in flight. 
She remonstrated vehemently, but to no avail. 
She pleaded with her lover to accompany 
her, notwithstanding his pledge to remain. 
Elizabeth joined with her in entreaties. She 
urged that his promise was not binding, since 
it was given under duress. David, however, 
was obdurate. He resisted both argument 
and prayers. In the end, the two girls recog- 
nized the fact that he was not to be turned 
from his purpose of holding fast to his word. 

It was Elizabeth who became convinced 
first, and by her assurances Ruth was at last 
prevailed upon to yield to the inevitable, and 
to take her departure from the encampment 
forthwith. For the princess pledged herself 



288 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL ! 

to save David from any harm. She asserted 
that she would have power to mold her father 
to her wilL While neither she nor any could 
curb him in the frenzy of a red rage, she 
would be able to soothe him and finally to 
sway him as his wrath diminished. She gave 
Ruth her promise to guard the young man, 
and to secure his speedy release from the 
encampment, his speedy return to the sweet- 
heart, who would be waiting so anxiously for j 
him. 

There were kisses and tears between the 
two girls at parting. Elizabeth had dedded 
it would be wiser for Ruth to go as she had 
come, quite alone, without having David to 
accompany her to where her horse waited; 
since there were probably spies watching the 
young man with instructions to prevent his 
leaving the encampment. That she was cor- 
rect in this supposition was soon to be proven 
in disastrous fashion. 

When Elizabeth and Ruth had finished 
their farewells, the princess turned, and took 
up the pail, and filled it at the spring, and 
then walked with it swiftly through the 
gathering dusk toward the cabin. She felt 
that the limit of her strength had been 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 289 

reached. It seemed to her that, if she were 
to see them again in each other's arms, she 
must go mad. She had the strength of sonl 
to sacrifice herself, to give the man she loved 
to another; but she had not the strength to 
look again on their rapture. 



CHAPTEE XXV. 

T X THEN he returned to the cabin, after 
V V his parting with Ruth, David found 
no one in the living-room, which pleased him, 
for he was anxious to be alone a little while 
to meditate on the strange and vital happen- 
ings of the day. His worst anxiety had been 
relieved by Elizabeth's definite assurances 
of securing his release. Freed from worry 
on this score, he was able to enjoy to the full 
the pleasure that had been caused him by 
Euth's appearance. His heart was at peace 
for the first time in many days, because he 
no longer doubted his entire love for the girl 
to whom he had plighted his troth. He filled 
his pipe, and sat smoking with great content- 
ment. Just then, he had little thought to 
spare for the girl on whom he had involun- 
tarily inflicted suffering so severe. He had, 
indeed, little thought for himself. He was 
thinking intently, with warm tenderness in his 
heart, of Euth, of the lovelight in her violet 

290 



THE HOMEWARD TRAHi 291 

eyes when she had looked at him, of the soft 
sweetness of her lips when they had lain on 
his. 

David aroused with a start when the cabin 
door banged open, and the chief stamped 
noisily into the room. A single glance at 
Lowrie was enongh to shatter all of his new- 
found tranquiUity. 

The leader of the tribe was in one of his 
red rages. The man's appearance left no 
doubt of the fact. The great chest was heav- 
ing convulsively like that of a man who has 
just run a race. The huge hands were balled 
into fists. But it was the face that awed the 
mountaineer, and moved him to new fear for 
his own safety. The skin was empurpled. 
The muscles were twitching. The lips were 
drawn back in a grin of ferocity. The eyes 
were bloodshot, narrowed to slits, with the 
pupils pin points of flame. He had left the 
door open behind him, and David could see 
gathered beyond the threshold a half-dozen 
of the tribesmen, whose black eyes as they 
watched gleamed with malevolence. 

Lowrie halted a pace distant from David, 
and stood for a moment glaring in fury. 
Then his voice came in a bellow. 



292 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

"1*11 Pam ye t* go a-kiflgin' gals ronncf 
hyar, ye damn* whelp I 1*11 hev ye put whar 
ye*ll be shet o* thet.*' He beckoned swiftly 
toward the men at the door. **Qrab 'im, an* 
throw *im inter the guard-house afore I take 
my han*s t* *iml** 

The men surged forward, laid hold on 
David, and hustled him out of the room, 
while the chief stood by, shaking with the 
wrath that was on him, and cursing horribly, 
but holding back by a mighty effort from an 
actual assault. The mountaineer made no 
resistance whatsoever. He was only anxious 
to be quit of the frantic man bfefore worse 
bef elL He did not see Elizabeth, who in her 
room had been disturbed by her father's 
cries, and had come out just as David was 
dragged from the cabin. 

The girl faced her father intrepidly. 

**For shame, pappy I** she exclaimed. 
**Tou shouldn*t treat David so.** 

But Lowrie was past caring for aught save 
the hate that boiled within him. Even Eliza- 
beth had no power now to turn his anger 
aside. He stared at her without any soften- 
ing in the fierceness of his expression. 

* * Git inter yer room, gal ! * * he commanded. 



1' 



THE HOMEWAED TEAIL 293 

**Git, if ye don't want t' be carried thar, an* 
tied up/' 

Elizabeth turned, and went out in silence, 
without any attempt at further protest. She 
knew the heaviness of his hand, and she knew 
that his threat was not idly spoken. Her 
effort to influence him must await a more 
fitting season. 

David passed a wretched night, bolted 
within the tiny, windowless cabin, which 
served as a jail for the settlement. The dis- 
tress of his situation was the worse by con- 
trast with the high anticipations that had 
filled him at the moment when the crash came. 
Apprehensions as to what his fate might be 
thronged upon him. It seemed to him that 
his only hope lay in Elizabeth's interven- 
tion, but he despaired of success in this direc- 
tion, for he had heard the manner of Lowrie's 
speech to his daughter. A surly jailer gave 
him food and drink in the morning, but 
would not answer a word to his questions. 
The weary hours wore on with fearful slow- 
ness until the youth was almost crazed with 
the desperateness of his plight. For now 
he feared, not only for his own fate, but for 
what might menace Ruth. Evidently, the 



294 THE HOMEWARD TBAIL 

chief had learned of her presence. He might 
have ordered her to be pursued, to be cap- 
tured, to be reserved for any fate that his 
insane malice might devise. With morbid 
imagination, David could only guess as to 
what might be happening, while he was shut 
helpless within the walls of his prison. 

Night came again. Another meal was set 
before him in silence. It was not until nearly 
midnight, as he reckoned the time, that a 
change came. Then he heard a murmur of 
voices outside the cabin door. They ceased 
presently. He heard the noise of the bolt 
shot back, and the door opened. Elizabeth 
entered, carrying a lantern, and shut the door 
behind her. 

**Tou are free to go, David, ^^ she said 
quietly, with an undemote of sadness in her 
voice. 

David sprang to her, and caught her free 
hand in a warm clasp. 

**YeVe talked yer pappy over I'' he ex- 
claimed. **I didn^t think it could be done. 
I 'lowed they wasn't nothin* could stop him — 
not even you-all, 'Liz'beth.'' But his joyous 
smile over the unexpected news faded as he 
perceived the gravity of her face. 



THE HOMEWABD TRAIL 295 

The girl shook her head. 

* * No, ' * she replied. * * Pappy rode off some- 
where this morning, and hasn't come back 
yet. 1 lied to the guards for your sake, David. 
I told them that pappy had ordered your re- 
lease. They helieved me, because I have 
never lied before. The way is open for you 
now, David. But you must go at once. 
There's not an instant to lose. Pappy may 
come any minute.'' Her tone was urgent, 
with a tremor of anxiety in it. 

**But will it be safe fer you-allt" David 
demanded. *' Won't yer pappy take it out on 
ye fer gittin' me off this-awayt" 

The girl shook her head once again. 

**No," was her ready answer. *^ Pappy 
will be calmed down, I reckon, by the time he 
gets back, and I'll be able to smooth things 
over. ' ' Then she spoke swiftly, with new in- 
sistence. * * But you must hurry, David. You 
mustn't waste time in talking. You must go 
now — ^now I Do you hear t ' ' 

He yielded, though somewhat reluctantly. 
He was fearful for her, yet half -convinced by 
her protestations. He failed to understand 
that it was not so much alarm over the pros- 
pect of her father's speedy return that incited 



296 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

her to hasten his going as it was the knowl- 
edge that her self-control was near the break- 
ing point. She had already endured so much 
pain that it seemed more than she could bear 
— ^this final parting from the man she loved. 
She was all a-tremble with longing to throw 
herself into his arms, to weep her heart out 
on his breast. But she forced herself to 
speak in passionless tones, to gaze at him 
dry-eyed. Her manner showed nothing of 
the torture within her. But that torture 
sapped her strength, and so she ordered him 
to be gone with all haste, before her strength 
should come to an end. She guided him to 
a horse, which she had in waiting a little 
way out on the river-trail, with rations 
fastened to the saddle. 

**You must hurry, ^' were her last words, 
**and overtake Ruth." 

They parted with a handclasp. As he rode 
away into the night, David's heart was warm 
with gratitude to Elizabeth, warmer with 
love for another. But the heart in the breast 
of the girl whom he left behind him was cold 
as she turned and walked back alone through 
the darkness— cold with the coldness of 
death. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

RUTH was so tired by the excitement 
through which she had passed that she 
deemed it xmwise to begin her long journey 
that night. She was confirmed in this deci- 
sion by the fact that it was ahnost dark when 
she reached the spot where the horse was 
tethered. She cooked her meal, and immedi- 
ately afterward went to sleep in her blanket. 
That she was indeed excessively fatigued 
was proven by her sleeping soundly xmtil 
mid-forenoon of the next day. Then she 
breakfasted hurriedly, and set forth. Yet, 
though thus delayed, she did not force her 
horse's pace. Somehow, she found herself 
unable to hurry the animal that was bearing 
her away from David. So, she rode slowly, 
pondering many things, and chief among 
them the strange girl whose suffering, she 
knew, was the measure of her own happiness. 
She halted and cooked another meal late in 
the afternoon, and once more pressed for- 

297 :, 



298 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

ward. It was near night when she noticed 
the quick flexing of her horse *s ears, and in 
the next second her own caught a moan that 
sounded from somewhere beyond the under- 
brush that lined one side of the traiL She 
reined in the horse, and sat listening. The 
moaning continued. It was plainly close at 
hand. At first, a natural fear was begotten 
in the girl by the mysterious noise. But the 
indication of suffering was so evident that 
soon sympathy triumphed over alarm. She 
dismounted, and, after making fast the bridle- 
rein to a branch, cautiously advanced in the 
direction of the sound. As she stepped 
throujjh the barrier of bushes, she saw the 
figure of a man lying on the ground amid 
the long grass of a little open place in the 
wood. He was of great size, and very power- 
ful, she judged. There was something im- 
pressive in the massive features and thick- 
growing gray hair and beard. The lids be- 
neath the shaggy brows were fast shut, and 
he lay inert as if unconscious, but he moaned 
continually. Euth looked closer, and per- 
ceived that one trouser leg was splotched with 
a blackening crimson. The sight distressed 
her, but it moved her to a more active display 



THE HOMEWAJBD TBATL 299 

of sympathy. She went forward, and knelt 
on the turf by the injured man. Her ques- 
tions, however, provoked no response. She 
bethought herself of the flask at her saddle. 
She hastily procured it, and managed with 
much difficulty to get a considerable quantity 
of the spirits down the man's throat 

The effect was immediate. The lids un- 
closed, and two black eyes stared balefully 
up into her face. A sonorous voice came 
rumbling roughly. 

**Who the devil be you-allf 

** Never mind about me,'* Euth answered. 
''You're hurt — ^wounded. You need help.'' 

**Yep. Shot through the laig. Gimme an- 
other swig." He nearly finished the con- 
tents of the flask before he would let it go 
from his lips. The liquor revived him in- 
stantly. Lowrie — ^for the wounded man was 
indeed the chief — struggled into a sitting 
posture, in spite of the agony the exertion 
caused him. 

*^So be ye'r' willin' t' he'p, ye kin tie a 
piece o' yer skirt round my laig t' stop the 
bleedin'." He pulled out a clasp-knife. 
**Take this-hyar, an' slit down my pants." 

Ruth obeyed willingly and deftly, for she 



300 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

was both kindly and resonrceful. Soon the 
wonnd was decently bandaged, and, after 
finally draining the flask, the Croatan gave 
a brief account of how he came to be in such 
evil case. 

**Hit was thet-thar damn' skunk, Charlie 
Goins. I knowed 'e was thicker ^n thieves 
with some o* the tribe. Got a bug in 'is 
head 'e could murder me, an' hev things all 
'is own way. Laywayed me, 'e did — damn 
'im t' hell! Flopped me out o' the saddle. 
'E thought 'e 'd done killed me, 'cause I 
lay still. 'E come a-runnin'. The long grass 
hid my ban's fr'm 'im. I pulled my revolver, 
an' bored 'im through the heart as 'e come 
up t' me. Leastways, I cal'late I got Im 
plunk in the vitals, 'cause 'e didn't even 
squeak — ^jist tumbled down on 'is face like 
'e was drunk, an' 'e's stayed thar ever 
sence." He gestured over his shoulder. 
" 'E's thar jist back o' thet log. No need 
fer you-all t' pizen yer pretty eyes with 
lookin' at the ornery varmint. 'E's jist 
nacherly dead an' gone t' helL" 

Then a sudden change came over him. He 
regarded the shocked girl fixedly, his brows 
bending in a frown. He repeated his first 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 301 

question, with a harsh command in his tone. 

**Who be ye, gait*' His expression hard- 
ened. Before the girl conld answer him, a 
curse burst from his lips. His voice came 
in a roar. *'Ye'r* a stranger hyar. Ye'r' 
thet-thar gal they toP me 'bout what was 
a-huggin' an' a-Hssin' on David. I know 
ye now. Te'r' thet-thar slut — cuss ye!" 

Euth, who was still kneeling beside the 
man, sprang to her feet. For a moment, her 
face blanched. Then the red of anger suf- 
fused it. She threw back her head, and 
stood posed contemptuously, looking down 
with cold disdain on the man she had suc- 
cored. Her voice as she spoke was metallic. 

**And I know you. You're that horrible 
old Indian chief, who wanted to harm my 
David. I'm right sorry I found you. I've 
done what I could for you so far. It's more 
than you deserve." 

The bluster was gone out of Lowrie's voice 
when he next spoke, though he made no effort 
to placate her. 

'*An' now ye've done yer duty, ye kin ride 
away, an' leave me t' rot hyar. Wall, go 
on — ^git out!" 

'*I'll ride to your village, and bring help 



302 THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 

back, ' ^ Euth said, without any hesitation. * * I 
hope you quite understand. I'm doing this 
from a sense of duty, because I have to/' 
Abruptly, her eyes sparkled angrily. **I 
hope,'' she concluded fiercely, "you'll be 
dead before I get back." 

The chief looked after her without resent- - 
ment as she rode away. Her spirit had ji 
wiped out his wrath, had provoked him to 
admiration. Moreover, in spite of his flare 
of temper, he was profoundly grateful to the 
girl to whom he owed any chance of life that 
he might have. Euth, unknowing Lowrie'a 
later feeling toward her, put her horse to 
a gallop, not so much for the wounded man's 
sake as to be the sooner done with a distaste- 
ful task. The night fell as she rode back 
over the way she had come, but the moon soon 
rose, and she was able to proceed at a rapid . 
pace. She had covered perhaps half the 
distance to the encampment when she heard 
the sound of horse 's hoofs approaching. She 
pulled her mount to a standstill, and waited 
with a sensation of great relief. It occurred 
to her that she could guide this wayfarer to 
the injured man, and so be quit of her duty 
in the matter. She called out hello as the 



THE HOMEWABD TBAIL 303 

horseman drew near. In the answering hail, 
to her amazement and joy, she recognized 
David's voice. 

The mutual surprise of the lovers over 
this unexpected encounter could not mitigate 
their pleasure in it, nor lessen the ardor of 
their greeting. Euth explained hastily the 
reason for her presence, whereupon David 
found himself confronted with a serious diffi- 
culty. He was by no means inclined to re- 
turn to the Croatan settlement. To do so 
would be to run the risk of imprisonment or 
worse. Nevertheless, his conscience spoke in 
no uncertain voice. Like Euth, he realized 
perfectly just where his duty lay. He could 
not leave even a dog to die imattended by his 
voluntary choice, much less the man whom 
he considered with justice, since Goins was 
dead, his worst enemy. He did not feel that 
he could permit Euth to go on to the encamp- 
ment without him, to seek other assistance. 
There was, in addition, the matter of time. 
It might be that a few hours' delay would 
cause the death of the wounded man. He 
could not telL But he had no right to sub- 
ject another to such a risk unnecessarily. 
Though he debated the question carefully 



304 THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 

within himself^ the issue was at no time in 
doubt He told Buth his decision: That the 
two of them should go to Lowrie, and bring 
him on David's horse back to his home. 

**An* I hate him like pizeni** David grum- 
bled, as they rode off together. 

'^Me, too!" Buth admitted, with a smile. 
"He said horrid things to me.*' 

On the tablets of memory David splashed 
another black mark against the account of 
the Croatan chief. 

"But I guess I was as bad as he was,'* 
Buth continued penitently. "Of course, I 
didn 't really mean it. I told him I hoped he 'd 
die before I got back." 

Despite the tragedy that hemmed them in, 
David roared with laughter, in which, some- 
what shamefacedly, Buth presently joined. 
• • • • # 

The dawn was just breaking when the three 
entered the Croatan encampment. Lowrie, 
after the curse with which he had greeted 
David's appearance, had not uttered a word 
throughout the tedious hours, although he 
had acted obediently according to every sug- 
gestion from the young man. The task of 
getting him into the saddle had taxed the 



THE HOMEWARD TBAH^ 305 

strength of the two to the utmost. Finally, 
his weakness had become such that he could 
not support himself unaided. Thereafter, 
Ruth had walked, while David, mounted on 
her horse, had sustained the chief in his 
arms. As they rode up to the cabin door, 
Ruth was tottering from fatigue ; David was 
almost equally exhausted from the long-con- 
tinued strain of holding up the huge, inert 
bulk of the wounded man. Lowxie himself 
was unconscious. 



CHAPTER XXVn 



1 



•i : 



il 



ELIZABETH, wbo liad not slept that 
night, was speedily aronsed, and at 1 
once took efficient charge of the sitnation, A 
tribesman, with s<Mne rude skill in am g ery, 
worked over the chief to extract the bollet, | 

and washed and dressed the wonnd. Bnth 
was given a share of Elizabeth's bed. Darid 
volunteered to watch with the sick man. in 
spite of the weariness that weired heaTily 
npon him. Lowrie thronghont had main- ! \ 

tained a snllen silence after regaining con- ^ \ 

scioasness, except for a string of mnmbled 
curses while the wonnd was being probed. 
The stillness was too mnch for David's re- 
solve to keep awake. He fell asleep, pres- 
ently, sitting in the chief's big armchair, and 
slept soundly until daybreak. He awoke to \ 

find Impself aching and crami)ed, but mnch 
refreshed He was relieved by the fact that 
Lowrie also was asleep. He supposed that 
the sufferer like himself had slumbered for 

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THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 307 

hours. In truth, however, the chief, irritated 
by the fever of his wound, had not closed his 
eyes until almost daybreak. His brain had 
been whirling with a confusion of thoughts 
strange to him, and his heart had been curi- 
ously stirred with new emotions. But he be- 
trayed nothing of this. When he awoke, his 
manner was still forbidding, surly and taci- 
turn. David suspected no weakening in the 
brutal animosity of the man toward himself 
and toward Buth. It may be, nevertheless, 
that the more discerning eyes of the princess 
were able to read the truth lying back of 
that stern and gloomy exterior. It is cer- 
tain, at least, that she had the courage to 
confront him boldly, without pretense, or any 
attempt at palliation of her audacity, 

Buth and David were talking softly to- 
gether in one end of the room, while Eliza- 
beth was at her father's bedside. There was 
no one else present. Elizabeth beckoned 
them to approach. They obeyed, much mysti- 
fied, and stood hand in hand at the foot of 
the bed. Lowrie glowered at them, but ut- 
tered no word. It was his daughter who, 
looking down on him with fearless eyes, only 
a little dimmed by the great sorrow in her 



308 THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 

soul, spoke very gently, the music of her 
voice half -pleading, half -commanding. 

** Pappy, David and Ruth are going now. 
I want you to tell them for yourself, they're 
free to go/' 

The face of the prostrate chief purpled. 
It was the first time in all his life that his 
authority had been flaunted, had been usurped 
by another. Eesentment burned hot within 
him. But only for a few seconds. Then the 
color faded slowly from his face, and the 
fires in the eyes he had turned on his daughter 
were quenched. Yet he spoke no word, only 
continued staring at her with questioning 
gaze as if demanding more. 

Elizabeth answered the mute inquiry. Her 
voice now was colorless. She spoke in a 
level tone, mechanically. It was as if she 
reasoned coldly, without any trace of emo- 
tion. It was thus only that she could speak 
at all. 

**You claimed David owed me his life, be- 
cause I saved him. But you didn't under- 
stand, pappy. I don't want David's life — " 
she hesitated for an instant, with a catch of 
the breath — *'I really don't want David. He 
belongs to Buth, and he loves her. And it 



I 



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THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 309 

would break Euth^s heart to lose him, because 
she loves him so. ' ' She did not say that she 
knew the truth of this from the anguish 
within her own breast. '*You see, pappy, if 
it^s true that David owes me his life, it's just 
as true that you owe your life to Euth. 
But she doesn't want your life. She wants 
David's. So, because you owe her a life, 
you must give David back to her. ' ' 

For a full minute, the chief rested motion- 
less and silent, regarding his daughter with 
somber eyes. Then his gaze shifted to the 
two standing at the foot of the bed. The 
grim face lightened a little as he studied 
Euth. 

**Te hoped I'd die afore ye got back. I 
don't aim t' obleege ye none by dyinV' he 
rumbled. A hoarse chuckle followed the 
words. **But I'll obleege ye by givin* ye 
thet-thar feller o' your'n. An' good rid- 
dance ! ' ' Having so said, Lowrie turned his 
face to the wall without another word or 
glance. 

There were hasty farewells between Eliza- 
beth and the lovers. The parting of the girls 
was tender with kisses, and there were tears 
in the eyes of both. But the parting of David 



310 THE HOMEWARD TRAIL 

and Elizabeth was constrained, liastened and 
made formal by the emotions which each felt 
As the lovers rode away down the street 
and out of the encampment into the river- 
trail, David's heart was heavy within hiyn. 
Once again in memory came the thrill of those 
wonderful hours with the princess in the 
cavern. Once again the glamour of that pas- 
sion lay over him. By stem effort of will, 
he turned his thoughts from such recollec- 
tions, which were a treachery to the girl at 
his side. But he knew that in the days to 
come the memory would linger always — ^the 
memory of a woman sweet and strong and 
exquisite, who loved him. He sighed impa- 
tiently. Then he remembered the chief, at 
whose hand she had suffered so much. He 
sighed again, with relief that he had seen the 
last of the reckless and savage autocrat. 
There was subtle comfort to him in the knowl- 
edge that the princess, adorable as she was, 
was one of a strange people, whose ways 
were not his ways. He glanced at the radiant 
face of the girl beside him ; and his comfort 
was complete. After all, he loved Buth, and 
her only ; and her people were his people, and 
her ways, his ways. 



THE HOMEWAED TBAIL 311 

The girl was bubbling over with delight. 
Even sympathy for Elizabeth could not 
weigh down the lightness of her spirits. 
But she was not unmindful of the one 
to whom she owed so much, as her words 
proved. 

^ * Elizabeth has promised to pay me a long 
visit sometime.*' She laughed a little, a 
ripple of music. **You know, David, I owe 
the princess a life— yours, David. I'm go- 
ing to pay with another life — ^the way she 
made her pappy pay.'' 

David looked puzzled, and Euth laughed 
again at his bewilderment. Then she ex- 
plained, with the utmost seriousness. 

*'I'm going to find a husband for Elizabeth, 
and give him to her to pay my debt. Any- 
how," she added indignantly, *' she's much 
too good for any of those Indians. ' ' 

And David, though he said nothing, agreed 
with her. 

**I feel pretty small, goin' back t' yer 
pappy, Euth," David confessed, ** without 
the money t' pay fer them apples." His 
face was lugubrious. 

Euth smiled on him reassuringly. 

**I forgot to tell you, David. Pappy 's had 



312 THE HOMEWARD TEAHi 

a letter from your pappy. He's been ex- 
changed, and is coming home. And — ^and — *' 
she hesitated, and her face grew rosy — ^''well, 
he's anxious to have you run things, and — '' 
She broke off in confusion. 

David smiled on her understandingly in his 
turn. 

** Wants me t' marry an' settle down, 
p'r'apsT" he suggested quizzically. 

Euth nodded, her face even rosier than be- 
fore. 

*'I'm sorry yer pappy 's got a grudge agin 
me," David said, with a return to serious- 
ness. 

But Euth shook her head in vehement 
denial. 

*' Pappy hasn't any grudge. He's shown 
how sorry he was to mammy and me — and 
Mollie. You don't need to worry about that, 
David." 

The sweet cadences of her laughter rang 
again. 

''And I know what pappy 's going to give 
you for a wedding present, David." 

''What?" he demanded. 

"A whole load of limber-twig apples.** 

"The same having already been deliv- 



THE HOMEWAED TRAIL 313 

ered/' David added, and joined in her 
laughter. 

On a little rise of the road, by a common 
instinct, the lovers drew rein, and looked 
back toward the encampment, which nestled 
snugly within the frame of woodland foliage, 
now dimming from its autumnal splendors. 
They could not make out the figure of the 
girl who stood solitary and desolate by the 
spring, looking with pain-blinded eyes toward 
the vast spaces of the sky. 

The lovers gazed back for a moment. Then, 
without a word, their eyes turned to each 
other in tenderness, and their lips smiled 
from the happiness that was in their hearts 
as they rode forward on the homeward trail. 



THE END. 



AUTHOR'S NOTE 

The author has adapted the facts in the life 
of Henry Lowrie to suit the purposes of the 
story. Otherwise^ references to the Groatans 
are historically correct 



314 



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